Agriculture ministers on both sides of the border were today urged to keep Ireland free of genetically modified crops and foods.
Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris, Fermanagh councillor Gerry McHugh and the party’s European Parliament candidate in Dublin Mary Lou McDonald called for a “simultaneous public consultation” on the issue on both sides of the border amid a fierce debate over the potential threat to human, animal and plant health.
Accusing the British government of conducting a “superficial debate” on the issue in Northern Ireland, Mr McHugh said it was clear British Prime Minister Tony Blair was intent on growing genetically modified crops.
“There has only been a superficial debate in the north (of Ireland) yet it appears Tony Blair already has his mind made up on GM,” he said in Dublin.
“In his last cabinet reshuffle he exiled Michael Meacher, a vocal critic of GM, to the back benches.
“A July 11 report said there was little economic benefit from GM and then last week another report by scientists with advice that there are apparently few risks associated with eating GM food.
“It is clear that the British government is going to adopt GM food and crops, they do not support the European model of farming while Tony Blair is only interested in appeasing big business interests.”
The former Sinn Féin Assembly agriculture spokesman claimed the risk of hybrid cross-contamination from GM crops to indigenous crops was extremely high.
This, he said, would result in the loss of genetic diversity and would have “serious, potentially fatal consequences” for the future of organic farming.
Mr McHugh also warned that local farmers would be “at the mercy” of consumers if the technology went wrong.
“They will be the ones who will suffer huge losses – not the large corporations like Monsanto,” he argued.
The Sinn Féin councillor said the party would continue to lobby Northern Ireland Office Agriculture Minster Ian Pearson to ban the planting or sale of GM food and crops.
“When devolved government returns to the north, we will pursue this with a local minister and through as many of the relevant committees as possible,” he vowed.
“Sinn Féin will also be seeking a meeting with the minister of agriculture to express our concerns and the need for a simultaneous public consultation with the south.
“I know my colleague, the former (Stormont) Health Minister Bairbre de Brún shares all of my concerns on this issue because of the huge risks associated with human health.
“Farmers have a lot to lose if genetically modified food is grown in Ireland.”