Europe’s resistance to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is holding farmers back, according to the IFA.

Irish farmers must be able to compete on a level playing field and the current EU stance on GMOs does not allow that, IFA General Secretary Pat Smith has said. “It has to be a level playing field in relation to GMOs and hormones. These issues are stifling EU agriculture and our hands are tied. It is costing EU agriculture all the time.” He was speaking at the launch of the IFA’s manifesto for local and european elections.

He said EU policies were ruled by politics, not science. “Politics is superimposed on science in the EU.” 

“We are five to 10 years out of date with regard to licensing, as what Europe is legislated to import is not being grown any more.” He said this means EU importers have to choose varieties that are less efficient but are approved by Europe. Countries which have adopted technologies such as GMOs, he said, have seen gains of 2-3% in their agricultural output in the past 10 years. Because of this, our competitiveness is becoming an issue. “Science should dictate what is safe and what isn’t safe and that goes for growing GM crops in Ireland too. How can we compete when we can not use technologies others can use?”

He went on to say that Irish farmers are the most efficient producers of food in Europe, yet will have to increase their production levels to meet increasing demand for food. There is also a shortage of protein in Europe, he said, so farmers have to import soybeans which is an issue because of the GMO regulations in Europe. Sourcing non-GMO soybeans, he said, is becoming more and more difficult as less people are growing less of these varieties as they make less economical sense than GM varieties of soybean.