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Don’t fall for ‘GM-free’ labels or à la carte figments of the Green party’s imagination

WHILE your article on GM crops (Examiner Farming, September 30) identifies several issues with Trevor Sargent’s scaremongering on genetically modified (GM) crops, it fails to inform readers that the report cited by Mr Sargent was co-authored by the founder of Genetic ID, a private US company that tests for the presence of GM products.

Mr Sargent’s hoodwinking of consumers is unfortunately not a new occurrence as he was also responsible while minister of state at the time for Bord Bia’s expensive, misleading organic food advertising campaign in 2009 that was subsequently withdrawn at the request of the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland. Now Mr Sargent wants new labels on milk and meat derived from animals not fed GM (with a high percentage of the extra cost going to testing companies).

However, these labels are likely misleading under EU law as suggested by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s statement that “to label milk as ‘GM-free’ could mislead consumers to believe that GM milk is available on the market when as yet there is no such product available”. Members of the German government have called their GM-free meat labels a “gross deception of consumers” because animals can still be fed GM but must have their diet changed to non-GM feed before slaughter.

Feed additives derived from GM sources are also allowed.

In addition, contrary to Mr Sargent’s marketing claims, the IFA recently stated: “The evidence is that the great majority of consumers are unwilling to pay any premium for products produced using GM-free feed… and any premium achieved is rapidly eroded as supply increases.” (July 27, 2010).

Consumers need factual food information, not à la carte figments of the Green party’s imagination. Savvy food consumers know that natural does not automatically mean safer, local does not always mean more environmentally friendly and organic is not always better for your health or the environment.

What many don’t know is that while Irish publicly-funded GM technology to prevent potato blight sits on a lab shelf, the Greens in government are happy to let more than 250,000lbs of toxic fungicide be used annually against blight.

If Mr Sargent is truly interested in making Irish food production more sustainable I challenge him to ask Teagasc to carry out scientific trials to examine the potential of GM blight-resistant potatoes to reduce the levels of chemical fungicides used in Irish food production. The German Greens in government allowed more than 40 successful GM crop trials.

However, perhaps Mr Sargent believes peer-reviewed scientific research and evidence-based decision-making might get in the way of Irish Green party dogma?

Shane Morris

Department of Botany and Plant Science

NUI Galway


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