Prince Charles has called it the "biggest environmental disaster of all time," while Monsanto and others maintain it's safe for humans and the environment. Genetically modified foods are a contentious issue, but Ireland is erring on the side of caution, placing a ban on growing any genetically modified crops.
Ireland will ban growing of GM crops, and a voluntary GM-free label can be placed on all animal products--such as meat, poultry, eggs, fish, crustaceans, and dairy--that are raised with GM-free feed, according to a GM-Free Ireland press release. Ireland joins Japan and Egypt as one of the few but growing number of countries that have banned the cultivation of GM crops.
Smart Move for Irish Farmers
The agreement, signed by the government's two coalition partners, declares Ireland a "GM-free Zone."
The move will help Irish farmers who can't compete with subsidized agriculture powerhouses, says GM-Free Ireland Co-ordinator, Michael O'Callaghan:
The WTO's economic globalization agenda has forced most Irish farmers to enter an unwinnable race to the bottom for low quality GM-fed meat and dairy produce, in competition with countries like the USA, Argentina and Brazil which can easily out-compete us with their highly subsidized GM crop monocultures, cheap fossil fuel, extensive use of toxic agrochemicals that are not up to EU standards, and underpaid migrant farm labor.
But the move is smart not just for the benefit of Irish farmers and consumers; it will make Ireland's agriculture even more green, raising the country's environmental status on the world stage, says O'Callaghan:
The Irish Government plan to ban GM crops and to provide a voluntary GM-free label for qualifying animal produce makes obvious business sense for our agri-food and eco-tourism sectors. Everyone knows that US and EU consumers, food brands and retailers want safe GM-free food, and Ireland is ideally positioned to deliver the safest, most credible GM-free food brand in Europe, if not the world.
GM-Free Ireland Means More GM-Free in the U.S.
The U.S. imports large amounts of Irish diary products, including casein for cheese production, so the move will mean more Americans are getting GM-free foods.
Ireland's move will also provide a significant source of GM-free agricultural products for North American food product manufacturers, says Megan Thompson, executive director of the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit group that works to ensure GM-free foods are available to consumers who want them.
Ireland has taken a truly inspiring step to ensuring consumers' right to choose non-GMO products... As more and more companies in the USA and Canada are looking for non-GMO ingredients, this is a very timely move and we look forward to developing sourcing opportunities with GM-free producers in Ireland.
Bleak News for Monsanto
So far, Monsanto has been mum on Ireland's move, but odds are they're going to have a corporate version of a hissy fit--they'll sue.
It wouldn't be the first time Monsanto took on a nation. In April the agro-engineering giant filed suit against Germany for the country's ban on GM corn, but the courts sided with Germany, upholding the ban.
But with a country placing a sweeping ban, Ireland might be in for a bigger fight. It does, after all, set a precedent in Europe.