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.