Ireland needs to see greater leadership and support in emphasising the importance of respect for the environment and its relationship to the success of our food and tourism sectors, according to the Green Party submission to the Harvest 2025 strategy.
It says that all the stakeholders must be involved, to work together in order to ensure farm security, employment, tourism and rural development within an environmentally and economically sustainable framework.
Seamus Sheridan, Agricultural Spokesperson for the Green Party, said that, in order for Irish agriculture to succeed and thrive in the future, Harvest 2025 needs to adopt a balanced approach, supporting different sizes of farms and sustainable methods of primary food production.
“This balanced approach is also relevant for the various forms of secondary food production and food processing.”
He also said the Party would caution against promoting the idea that in the future only large farms or processors will survive; the ones who have the capital to afford extra inputs in order to support the increased production targets.
“We should also enhance our efforts to ensure that all the different enterprises within the food sector have sustainability, social justice and profitability at their core and not only on the label as a marketing scheme.”
Consideration should be given to the separation of the farming sectors from food production and food processing, he said.
“The industry of food processing is becoming increasingly connected with technology synthetic ingredients and science. Its connection with farming is becoming more and more distant.
“There may be merit in moving government departments and agencies involved in secondary food production and processing from agriculture to trade and industry. Farmers need support and representation to achieve a proper reward and price for their produce.
“Farming plays a vital role in supporting rural society, maintaining a rich culture and heritage, protecting the environment and promoting tourism. This is opposite to the objectives of many involved in the food industry.”
Harvest 2025 should seek to increase the national consumption and awareness of our primary and secondary agricultural produce, he said.
“Developing an appreciation and increasing access to Irish food should be at the forefront of the policy. This is particularly important as food is increasingly becoming an integral part in the development of our tourism sector. There has been a welcomed increase in support from large retailers but further actions are needed.”
The Green Party spokesman on Agriculture also said that meat consumption is an area of the upmost importance.
“It may prove to be one of the biggest challenges and opportunities for Harvest 2025. The daily consumption of meat, as is currently seen in developed countries, is beginning to be challenged. This is particularly true of intensively reared white meat. There is now an international questioning of the input costs and land use that is required to produce meat for the markets of the developed economies.”
This trend is emerging from some of America’s and Europe’s leading food commentators, he said.
“This should not be seen as a threat to Ireland’s meat sector. Rather it should be seen as an opportunity. The decrease in meat consumption will be matched with an increase in demand for quality and sustainably produced produce.”
The Green Party he says has a proud history and track record of science-based policy and is concerned about the current trend to polarise debates surrounding food technology, particularly in the area of genetic engineering.
“The view, as often expressed by those representing our farming organisations and government agencies, that the environmental and green movement are the only thing stopping genetic engineering changing the face of world agriculture and ending global hunger, is false and very simplistic.
“The fact that the green movement takes time to form opinions and policies surrounding plant technology, as opposed to other organisation and political groups who choose to bury their head should be appreciated rather than pilloried.
“We often hear of the unfair price discrepancies enforced by a ban on imported GE feeds. However it should be pointed out that the price advantage held by GE crops has little to do with GE and more often is the result of appalling farm labour conditions and environmentally destructive farm practices.”
The Green Party he says, is still firmly of the opinion that Ireland should not introduce the planting of genetically engineered crops uncontrollably in the open environment.