Ireland is running out of time to opt out of growing GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) crops.

The Department of the Environment must inform the EU Commission of its stance to the growth of these modified crops by close of play today (Friday, October 2).

The delay in making this decision has been criticised by many within Irish agriculture, as they see it as harmful to Ireland’s clean green image.

To date, 14 EU nations have opted out of this type of production, these include Northern Ireland, France, Germany, and Scotland.

Other nations include Austria, Croatia, Lithuania, Greece, Latvia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Wales and Belgium.

The decision to opt-out is based on consumer perception/demand for these GMO crops, like Ireland, England has still not opted out of this type of production.

Responsibility for GMO policy and regulation in Ireland rests across a range of Government Departments and Agencies, according to a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment.

In a statement released to Agriland, the Department of Environment said that at present, the relevant Departments and Agencies are continuing to discuss the revised legislation on GM cultivation, and what, if any, the practical and legal implications might be for the future.

It said, that Ireland supported this opt-out clause when it was first proposed, but it is continually kept under review on the basis of experiences and approaches of other member states.

According to the EU Commission, countries which opt-in can grow eight varieties of genetically modified maize, GM potato varieties had previously been included on this list but have since been removed.

Genetically Modified crops harmful to Ireland’s clean green image

Ireland must avoid being caught out of step with key EU competitors and markets who have decided to avail of the EU opt-out clause regarding the growing of GM crops, according to the ISCA President Patrick Kent.

According to Kent, the clean green image of Irish agriculture will be undermined if Ireland falls to opt-out of growing GM crops.

“The clean green image, encapsulated in the Origin Green strategy, will be undermined if we ever permit the growing of GM crops while competitors such as Northern Ireland and Scotland ban them.

“We also have to be very cognisant of the fact that key EU markets such as Germany, Italy and France are taking the view that growing GM crops is not in line with consumer sentiment and accordingly, are also taking a no GM planting approach.”

It will be extremely difficult to develop the clean, green, grass fed image while being out of step with a tide of EU countries that clearly do not see growing GM crops as being synonymous with natural farming systems, said Kent.

According to Kent, there is a risk that our Origin Green strategy will lose all credibility among EU consumers if Ireland doesn’t take the same approach as Northern Ireland, Scotland, Italy, France and Germany.

“It is vitally important that Ireland retains its green clean status.

“We cannot risk being compared unfavourably with our European competitors in this matter, particularly as beef and lamb exports are proportionately much more important in economic terms to us.

“We have managed perfectly well without GM crops so far and any change in our GM free status would be highly risky,” said Kent.