EU ministers were yesterday due to reverse their anti- GM animal feed regulations of 2009, but postponed the vote overnight to consider proposed amendments.
The EU says its policy reversal has been brought about by the impracticalities in separating and testing of animal feeds imported from non-EU countries.
While Ireland had previously adopted an anti-GM stance, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Brendan Smith, has now altered that view and supported yesterday’s proposal.
Ireland will also vote in favour of a low-level presence of as yet unauthorised GM varieties in imports of animal feed.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the European Food Safety Authority support the changes.
Mr Smith said: “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% of the protein feed for Irish livestock is soya and maize by-products from North and South America, most of which have GM varieties. The EU has accepted farm group views that segregating these feeds is impractical and very costly.
Mr Smith added: “Imports of maize by-products into Ireland declined 75% from 2006 to 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,” he said.
Maize by-product imports into Ireland dropped from 800,000 tons in 2006 to 175,000 tons in 2009.
The IFA, ICMSA, the Irish Grain and Feed Association and other farmer bodies have all been lobbying for today’s anticipated policy revision.
IFA president John Bryan said: “Pig producers are losing €15 on every pig produced, something which is not sustainable and is placing thousands of jobs at risk.”
However, Green Party senator Dan Boyle said: “We are saddened by this move, but it shows Fianna Fáil’s real commitment in this area. They are not considering the consumer in this.
“This is the first step on a slippery slope. It is opposed by consumers, and it is an area in which the food industry should be led by consumers rather than imposing something on them they clearly don’t want,” he said.
The EU’s reversal is also opposed by GM-Free Ireland, which claims GM crops cannot “co-exist” with conventional, organic agriculture and will “contaminate” the ecosystem.