Tag Archives: Genetically modified food

Corrigan calls for abolition of Bord Bia

richard-outside-front-door I’m sure many of the journos who found their way to Richard Corrigan’s press conference last Friday imagined the big man’s impending rant to be just a publicity stunt to publicise his restaurant and his new TV programme. Maybe that’s why the event wasn’t as well attended as I thought it might be, with several notables from the food journalism scene absent from the event. In the end it was left to Orla Broderick, chair elect of the Irish Food Writer’s Guild, Aoife Carrigy of Food & Wine, Tom Doorley and myself to cary the flag and ask the pertinent questions. The rest of the press corps present were ‘Newsos’ and ‘Snappers’.

 

Personally, I eschew the begrudgers’ view. I’ve known Richard for a long time and that’s not how he operates. What he does is home in on something he feels mega-strongly about (remember ‘Chickengate’?). Then he wades in, metaphorically speaking, with fists and gob flying, food’s answer to Mohammed Ali aka “The Louisville Lip”.  Richard Corrigan aka “The Meath Mouth”  always strikes me as coming across more like St.George, charging into battle, terminating dragons with extreme prejudice,  than St.Patrick, calmly telling the snakes to “feck off ”.

 

So it proved. Heart on his sleeve, combative as ever, Richard opened up by calling for the abolition of Bord Bia or at the very least a radical rethink of how the body promotes Irish food in Ireland. The current situation, he said, is highly unsatisfactory in that Bord Bia is prevented under EU law from promoting exclusively Irish produce in the domestic market through the Quality Assurance Scheme. This means that the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme can apply to produce from any EU country and is therefore deeply flawed. Therefore buying Bord Bia quality approved products does NOT ensure that the products are Irish; that the products are GMO-free; or that the interests of Irish farmers and consumers are a priority with the Bord.He went on to say “I believe that the promotion of Irish food abroad and the promotion of Irish food at home should be separated. I would like to call for at least a radical overhaul of Bord Bia’s role in order to preserve and create Irish jobs, to empower Irish consumers, to support Irish farmers and to see taxpayers’ money spent constructively”, said Richard Corrigan. “Ireland has a unique capacity to produce the safest and highest quality food in Europe instead we are sailing in the opposite direction.

 

As a manifesto it was a hazardous roll-up of three separate issues and Richard’s pebbledash approach weakened his argument in the debate with Aiden Cotter, top dog at Bord Bia, later that afternoon at which he came over as badly-prepared, under-briefed or whatever. There were a good few non sequiturs in his speech at the press conference too. Richard asked why weren’t people like the Ballymaloe Allens and others who had the welfare of Irish food at heart involved in Bord Bia’s schemes. The truth is they often were, certainly in the setting up of initiatives like the ill-fated and ludicrously unworkable Feile Bia scheme for restaurants and producers. One of my criticisms of the Bord during my time as Editor of Food & Wine Magazine was that their Quango sub-committees always involved ‘the usual suspects’ and maybe some fresh, original thought wouldn’t have gone amiss.

 

I agree with Richard’s suggestion that Bord Bia are maybe not the best equipped organisation to uphold quality,ethical food production funded as they are by the major agri-businesses for whom the bottom line is paramount. Given Bord Bia’s track record with the ineffectual Feile Bia scheme (which failed largely because it wasn’t properly policed) and the woeful ‘Just Ask’ campaign that replaced it (no sanctions if the restaurant simply lies!) it’s right to question whether the Bord are the right people to do the job. “Abolition?” I don’t think so. What they do rather well is help market Irish food abroad, their primary role.

 

Clearly, we can no longer slap an Irish badge on the package and hope that does the trick. For a start the EU seems to have made it clear that QA schemes (like the Ritz hotel?) are open to all. But was it ever really desirable? Remember the ‘Gi’ sticker? There was some awful crap carrying that label in its heyday. No, what the consumer needs to know is that the food is ethically produced, traceable,  free as possible from pesticides and the ilk, and entirely free from taint by GM. The ‘Irish’ tag is nice to have and it’s great to know we’re supporting our own but it’s surely a ‘gizmo’ on top of the primary requirements. After provision of the above info the consumer can make up his or her own mind whether they want to go the tasty/healthy route or the cheap route but at least let’s empower them to be able to make that choice.

 

Lastly, over all this, like a pall of black smoke, hangs the GM question. The person who establishes the truth as to why our government is going it alone in facilitate the importing, growing and using of GM crops when the likes of France, Germany, Austria etc are moving in the opposite direction should be given the Presidency of Ireland for life. Anyone doubt there’s a link with The Forces of Darkness? One day it will emerge for sure but by then it will probably be too late.

 

By far the most impressive person at the press conference was Michael O’Callaghan, co-ordinator of GM-Free Ireland Network (website: www.gmfreeireland.org ) whose regular press releases make essential reading for anyone interested in the topic. Here’s what he told me: “I’ve been advised by experts from overseas that Ireland has the purest topsoil in the EU by far. And, along with New Zealand, we are the country least likely to be affected by climate change. In marketing terms, we own a gold mine. And the likelihood is, we’ll give it away.”

 

 

Government Helps Speed Gmo Invasion

GM-free Ireland Network co-ordinator Michael O’Callaghan accused Environment Minister Dick Roche of sabotaging Ireland’s farming future, following his failure to oppose the importation of Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) GT73 rapeseed for use as animal feed and industrial processing throughout the EU at a Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday. The patented rapeseed is modified to withstand Monsanto’s RoundUp weedkiller. Mr. O’Callaghan said “the Minister’s evident lack of knowledge of the environmental and health risks of this GMO animal feed will jeopardise the economic future of Irish farmers.”

Although it is defined as animal feed, GT73 is far more dangerous than other GM animal feeds because it would be imported as living GMO seed which can spread rapidly and contaminate most farms within a few years of its introduction. In September, scientists from the US Environmental Protection Agency discovered that wind-blown pollen from GMO plants contaminated other plants 21km away. A study by the Institute of Science in Society found that 95% of certified seed stock in western Canada was polluted with RoundUp tolerant GM genes and 52% exceeded the allowable contamination of certified seed (see note below.)

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association’s Rural Development Chairman John Heney said “there is clear and growing evidence that the deployment of GM oilseed rape will lead to widespread contamination of conventional crops.” Mr Heney pointed out that the democratic legitimacy of EU GM policy was at risk of falling into disrepute because GM products are being gradually pushed through even though a majority of EU member states and citizens oppose them.

EU member states failed to obtain a qualified majority (QM) for or against the GMO rapeseed when they voted on it on 16 June, when 12 member states voted against it, 9 for, with 4 abstentions including Ireland. The second vote scheduled for the Council of Environment Ministers meeting on Monday was cancelled because the member states were even more opposed this time around.

Thirteen EU member states were opposed (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, and Poland). Six member states were in favour (Finland, France, Portugal, Slovakia,
Sweden and the Netherlands). Six member states abstained (Ireland, Slovenia, Spain, Germany, Britain and
the Czech Republic).

This is the eighth time in a row where Ireland has failed to vote against a GM product, thus contributing to the lack of a qualified majority either for or against. Under the EU’s complex decision-making process, since the member states have failed to decide at ministerial level, the final decision will now be made by the Commission, probably in January, and the Commission is likely to rubberstamp an authorisation under pressure from the World Trade Organisation.

If this happens, millions of GMO rape seeds could be imported to Ireland, unloaded in harbours, and transported by rail and road to animal feed compounders around the country. The inevitable spillage along the way would thus result in the de facto release of GM oilseed rape crops without the required government authorisation or the consent of the affected farmers and consumers.

The resulting contamination of Irish farms would create an epidemic of RoundUp-resistant Superweeds, increase the use of weedkillers, threaten consumers’ health, wipe out organic farmers, prevent farmers from planting their own seed, require their crops to carry a GM label and exclude Irish farm produce from the growing market for the safe GM-free food which the majority EU retailers and consumers demand.

In a letter urging Dick Roche to vote against the GT73 rapeseed last week, ICSA Rural Development Chairman John Heney wrote: “Ireland cannot continue to sit on the fence, as it has done so far. We need to send out a signal that Ireland wishes to be seen as the natural food island. We cannot stand idly by while GM technology creeps in though the back door, or via this bizarre loophole in the decision making process of the EU.”

Mr. Heney pointed out that the ICSA represents 10,000 cattle and sheep farmers who are concerned at the apparent push towards getting GM technology into place in European agriculture by can what can only be described as back door means. He said “This is a matter of vital concern for the Irish agri-food sector because it is part of a bigger picture that will remove our
ability to remain GM free. ICSA believes that Ireland should do everything in its power to remain GM free as part of a strategy to develop our clean, green image and to promote Ireland as the natural food island. It is clear that a significant majority of European consumers do not want GM foods and as an exporting nation we cannot ignore this. Italy, for instance, which is potentially the most lucrative market for Irish beef, is very committed to a non-GM food supply and we need to have regard to this.”

He went on to say that Irish farmers are concerned about further damage to the image of our produce. “Unfortunately, when the image of a product is damaged, it is the primary producer who takes most of the pain – I need hardly explain what the consequences of BSE were to beef prices. In a decoupled environment, we cannot ignore consumer concerns in EU member states where we hope to do business and to expand our share of the market.”

According to the Cavan Leitirim Environmental Awareness Network spokesperson Christine Heine, Irish farmers who want to keep their livestock GM-free already have difficulty sourcing GM-free animal feed. “There is no choice regarding animal feeds at the moment, as requested by the EU Commission’s guidelines for coexistence. Ireland is not self-sufficient in cereals and other crops, and many farmers are forced, often without being properly informed, to use GM animal feeds against their wish. EU consumers are opposed to GMOs, and Ireland would do well, with the amount of meat and milk it exports, to offer GM-free produce.” Ms. Heine also said that the introduction of GM crops in Ireland will result in administrative and practical difficulties of separation, testing and handling, liability and insurance issues. All these would put unduly burdens on farmers and be not economically viable.

In a letter to the Department of Agriculture last week, An tIonad Glas Organic College warned that organic farmers may hold the Department liable for future loss of their organic symbol through GM contamination. The GM-free Ireland Network represents over 21,000 farmers, food producers and consumers who favour keeping Ireland GM-free.

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SEEDS OF DECEPTION – Euro-Toques Food Forum exposes hazards of GM

Jeffrey M. Smith is the author of the international biotech bestseller “Seeds of Deception: Exposing Corporate and Government Lies about the Safety of Genetically Engineered Food.” He presented his documented evidence to Chefs, regulators, and the press, this past Sunday at Ireland’s National Future of Food Forum chaired by Nobel Laureate John Hume at Brook Lodge in Macreddin, Co. Wicklow. According to Smith, scientists were offered bribes or threatened; evidence was stolen; data was withheld or distorted; government scientists who complained were threatened, stripped of responsibilities, or fired, and the United States Food and Drug Administration withheld information from Congress after a GM food supplement killed about a hundred people and caused between five and ten thousand people to fall sick.

The only published human feeding study confirmed that herbicide tolerant genes from GM soy actually take up residence in our gut bacteria. While the biotech industry had formerly assured us that this was impossible, this recently published evidence has serious implications. If the antibiotic resistant genes used in most GM foods were to jump to bacteria, they might create antibiotic resistant diseases. If the gene that creates the Bt pesticide in corn were to jump to bacteria, it might transform our gut bacteria into living pesticide factories. If the “promoter” used in GM foods to permanently turn on inserted genes were to transfer to bacteria or internal organs, it might create toxins, allergens, carcinogens, or anti-nutrients, awaken dormant viruses embedded in the DNA, or promote genetic mutations. Although the biotech proponents had assured us that the promoter would never transfer from food and would not function in human cells, the Norwegian Institute for Gene Ecology announced at a conference in February that promoters were found in rat organs three days after the rats were fed a single transgenic meal. They also showed that the promoter, used in most GM foods, does work within human cells in a test tube.

While only a pitifully small number of animal feeding safety studies have been conducted, several showed evidence of problems. Rats fed an experimental GM potato developed potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, damaged immune systems, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, and partial atrophy of the liver. Rats fed GM tomatoes developed stomach lesions and seven out of forty died within two weeks. The tomato was approved. Rats fed GM soy showed odd shaped cell nuclei in their livers. Rats fed GM oilseed rape had livers that were 15% heavier, and rats fed GM corn had several unexplained anomalies.

Pigs fed GM corn on several farms in the US Midwest developed false pregnancies. Twelve cows fed GM corn mysteriously died in Germany. And eyewitness reports from all over North American describe how several types of animals, including cows, pigs, geese, elk, deer, squirrels, and rats, when given a choice, avoid eating GM foods.

Since no one is monitoring the human health impacts of GM foods, it might take years to discover most reactions. One epidemic, however, was rare, serious, and fast acting, and therefore more easily discovered. Called EMS, it was traced to a GM brand of the food supplement L-tryptophan. In the 1980’s, the contaminated brand killed about 100 Americans and caused sickness or disability in about five to ten thousand others. (The often-quoted defence by biotech advocates – that a change in the manufacturer’s filter was the cause – is unsupported. We now know that hundreds had fallen sick from GM L-tryptophan during the four years prior to the change in the filter.)

In 2003, thirty-nine Philippinos living next to a Bt cornfield developed skin, intestinal, and respiratory reactions while the corn was pollinating. Preliminary tests of their blood showed an immune response to Bt.

Soon after GM soy was introduced into the UK, soy allergies there skyrocketed by 50%. Perhaps this was due to the significant increase in the allergen trypsin inhibitor in GM soy. Or maybe it’s due to the part of GM soy’s DNA that was damaged due to the process of genetic engineering. No one knows since no follow-up studies have been conducted.

Documents made public from a lawsuit reveal that scientists from the US FDA warned that GM foods might create unpredicted allergies, toxins, antibiotic resistant diseases, and nutritional problems that would be difficult to detect. They urged their superiors to require long-term safety testing. But the person in charge of policy was a former attorney for Monsanto. Further, the White House had instructed the FDA to promote the biotech industry. Therefore, FDA political appointees ignored their scientists and do not require any safety studies.

Jeffrey Smith discusses these and other evidence in Seeds of Deception, now available for the first time in Ireland. According to Michael Meacher, former UK Environment Minister who wrote the foreword to Smith’s book, “[Seeds of Deception] is a brilliant book which combines shrewd dissection of the true nature of GM technology, a devastating critique of the health and environmental hazards of GM crops, and scarifying examples of the manipulation of both science and the media by the biotech industry. . . . What is so exciting about this book is that it is no dry text of scientific exegesis – it positively fizzes with the human drama of the cabals and conspiracies behind the scenes. It is meticulously documented and powerfully written, somewhere between a documentary and a thriller.” –

Jeffrey Smith is the founding director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, a member of the Genetic Engineering Committee of the 700,000 member Sierra Club, and on the Steering Committee of the Genetic Engineering Action Network. Over the past ten months, he has travelled to more than 115 cities on five continents to brief world leaders and the public on the documented risks of genetically modified foods and crops.

Smith’s book Seeds of Deception is on sale at the Cultivate bookshop, 15-19 Essex St. West, Temple Bar, Dublin.

For more information, visit Jeffrey Smith’s web site at http://www.seedsofdeception.com

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Beef & Sheep Producers Call For Gm Free Island Policy

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has today (Thursday 17th June) called on the government to pursue a ‘GM (Genetically Modified) Free Island’ policy. ICSA wants this to be an integral part of a strategy to further develop the green image of Irish farm produce and it could be critical in increasing the Irish share of high value markets for products such as beef. ICSA president Malcolm Thompson said that “the single most important challenge for Irish agriculture is to build on the momentum of increased demand for Irish beef and lamb by strengthening our image as ‘Ireland – the food island’. We need to capitalise on a green image, and tap into the demand for natural products”.

ICSA rural development chairman John Heney explained that if Ireland wants to be a leading supplier of beef and lamb to the highest value EU markets, then it is vital to listen and respond to European consumer concerns. “Surveys clearly show that the majority of EU consumers are strongly opposed to any use of genetically modified organisms, whether as part of food for humans or as part of the diet of animals destined for meat production. This is a vital message which cannot be ignored if we wish to successfully market Irish beef”, he said.

He added that Ireland, as an island cut off from mainland Europe has a unique opportunity to put forward a GM free policy which will be highly credible._ “Because of our island status, we can realistically claim to be GM free, without risk of contamination from other EU countries that may take a different approach to GM. This will give us a marketing edge”, he said.

Mr Heney further explained that ICSA was not making any explicit judgement on the science of GM produce, but rather making the marketing of Irish beef and lamb the key objective of Irish agricultural policy._ “However, we have examined the implications of GM free production for competitiveness and ICSA is happy that the overall best interests of Irish farmers will be determined primarily by our ability to sell beef and lamb in high value markets.

For instance, the cost of GM free ration is only marginally higher than ration with GM ingredients, and at the same time would actually boost demand for home grown cereals such as barley and wheat. In this way, a GM free policy is positive for both Irish meat producers and Irish tillage farmers”, he concluded.

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