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Smith confirms Ireland to support EU proposals on GM Varieties

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith, confirmed that Ireland has altered its voting position and will support a number of proposals from the EU Commission aimed at authorising the placing on the market of food, food ingredients and feed containing, consisting of, or produced from genetically modified maize and cotton. Ireland will also support EU Commission proposals to introduce a tolerance for the low level presence of, as yet, unauthorised GM varieties in imports of animal feed.

Ireland's support for the EU Commission proposals will be confirmed at a meeting of the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health in Brussels today.  Applications for authorisation for the particular GM varieties have been made to the European Commission and have been given a positive opinion by the European Food Safety Authority, a position with which the Food Safety Authority of Ireland concurs.

Minister Smith said that "it has been a matter of great concern to Ireland, in recent years, that there has been a severe disruption to trade of animal feed, caused by the delays in the authorisation, by the EU, of GM varieties which have already been approved in the exporting countries."

Over 90 per cent of the protein feed for Ireland's livestock comes from soya and maize by-products imported from North and South America, practically all of which contains GM varieties sown in those countries. Exporting countries find it increasingly difficult to segregate feed that contains GM varieties that have yet to be authorised and, where segregation is possible, it contributes to increased costs of feed.

The Minister said that "imports of maize by-products into Ireland declined by over 75 per cent between 2006 and 2009, before recovering somewhat last year. The shortfall has had to be met by much more expensive alternative protein ingredients which led to increased prices of animal feed in recent years, thus putting Irish producers at a competitive disadvantage."

Despite the authorisation by the EU of a number of outstanding GM events in 2010, which resulted in a partial recovery in the volume of maize by-products imports, there is a continuing concern about the possibility of further disruption to trade because further GM varieties of maize and soya will require EU authorisation in the coming years.

Minister Smith said that he was "very conscious of the pressure on producers arising from the high cost of feed and, particularly, the critical situation in which pig producers find themselves due to the price of feed. Today's decision to support the EU Commission proposals will be of benefit to this sector and will complement the decision of the EU Commission, at Ireland's request, to introduce an immediate Aid to Private Storage scheme for pigmeat."

Minister Smith concluded by acknowledging the support of the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Coughlan, for his decision to support the EU Commission proposals.  Consideration of GM food and feed proposals is carried out jointly by the Department of Health and Children (food element) and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (feed element).

Date Released: 08 February 2011