Tuesday, March 6, 2012

GM or not to GM. That's the question, bet I know the answer

There's a rift appearing in the Irish agri-food sector which could affect what has for so long now been a good news story. Last week Teagasc announced that they've applied for a license to sow genetically modified potatoes at their research centre in Carlow.

Irish groups opposing GM claim this threatens our export food market in a climate when agriculture is one of the top performing sectors of the economy. Surveys do suggest that consumers don't want to eat GM food, and that the perception of Ireland as a "clean, green nation" is key to the success of our exports in countries like Italy and Germany.

It also comes at a time where in the US, farmers who choose not to grow GM are currently taking a class action against Monsanto - they fear that when Monsanto's GM seeds contaminate their own crops, Monsanto will claim ownership and charge them licence fees on what were originally sown as non GM foods.

But Teagasc and agri-food experts like Dr. Paddy Wall say the fear of GM is nonsense and it's the only way to tackle world hunger, and a mistake for Ireland to not embrace it. They also feel not allowing GM animal feed into Ireland has made our pig and poultry sectors completely uncompetitive. There argument is - if consumers want Irish food at a fair price, eventually we will have to accept genetically modified crops as part of that picture and that arguing against it will damage Ireland in the long term.

Let's also remember that the Teagasc research is not to look at the economic viability of blight-resistant GM potatoes here, but to look at their environmental impact in the first instance. I'm doing a radio report on this next week and encourage all who have a vested interest or from a consumer point of view, a preference to GM or non GM food, to get in touch. Let your views be known!


  1. You are what you eat Suzanne. If we as a nation accept and eat GM foods then not only will it damage Irelands export market in the long term, it will have devastating long-term health implications too, for us, and for our children. Do people really know or understand that GM means 'genetically modified' ... We are not the only nation straying far from natural food and what Teagasc is trying to do is outrageous. I wish that Dr. Paddy Wall and the other food experts would focus more on fixing our 'Island hunger' instead of trying to come up with a solution for tackling world hunger.

  2. I will get the Teagasc point of view later in the week, I think the principle fear of GM revolves around lack of trust in the companys that control the technology. If it could have remained without licence (too late now) or in public hands would we fear it less?

  3. I will not eat food that is contaminated with GM ingredients and I strongly wish that Teagasc would not go ahead with it's field trial of gm potatoes.

    The licensing issue is not the prime issue, although it is an important issue.

    The main problem is the genetic modification of our food - we are getting further and further away from eating real food and becoming more unhealthy as a nation all the time.

    Have a look at the Irish companies that won Irish food writers guild awards 2012 today - they produce real food, most often supported locally. That's not a coincidence, it's because we do still value real food.

    When you see what is going into food in the USA it's truly frightening compared to what we have readily available to us in Ireland.
    And apparently we are willing to lose our advantage and join the nations that produce mediocre food.

    I already avoid buying or eating meat that has been fed gm grain, I am not that unusual. American shoppers are voting with their wallets too and avoiding gm products - as much as they can given the appalling label situation with gm in the USA.

    Once gm has contaminated the food resources of the world then we will be no longer free to choose what standard of food we buy or eat - it will be too late.

  4. Hi Paleo yes the situation is the US is far from acceptable. If I lived there I'd have major problems - leaving consumers to eat GM food that's not labelled as such is a crazy situation but such is the powerful lobby of Big Food in the States. Europe has a much more cautious approach to GM with very few GM foods actually on the market here and approvals very slow and costly. Later in the week I'll be talking to Teagasc so you can follow the debate here or on the RTE radio programme on Wednesday - I will also post a link up here

  5. I agree with all comments, but all repeat all commercial animal feed that contain soy or maize is from a GM source. pigs/poultry/beef/layers pellets. As for having to feed the world, It is proven that we already grow excess food the problem is with the amount of waste along the entire length of the food chain.The UK soil association de bunked the report that said world food production need to be increased by 70%, in fact the authors of said report canot be found.This link http://www.soilassociation.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=qbavgJQPY%2Fc%3D&tabid=735 is the report. Prof Jack Heinemann report on GMO's in animal feed and subsequently into us makes sober and frightening rea http://hdl.handle.net/10092/3988ding.download both PDF's..Alfie Mccaffrey pigoftheday on twitter