Green MEP calls for moratorium on genetically modified crops


The case for an Irish moratorium on genetically modified crops has been strengthened by the British government's decision to investigate their effects and growing reservations within the EU about their potential impact, according to the Green MEP, Ms Patricia McKenna.

The call comes as the European Commission has failed to secure agreement on labelling of genetically modified foods. Under current rules many foods derived from genetic engineering can be sold without being labelled. But environmental interests and some member-states believe its revised proposals are even narrower and would allow a broader range of such foods to be sold without labelling.

British authorities are to examine the effects of crops genetically altered to become resistant to herbicides, including Round-Up, the biggest selling weedkiller in Ireland, which is produced by the US multinational Monsanto.

A moratorium was appropriate, Ms McKenna said, as it was clear that Monsanto wished to expand its trials on genetically modified sugar beet in Ireland despite renewed and growing opposition within Europe. The Commission had failed to overturn bans on importation and cultivation of such crops in Luxembourg and Austria. With similar reservations to Britain, where four government conservation agencies, including English Nature, last week called for a moratorium, France has declared its intention to ban certain modified crops, although it has given market approval to modified maize.

"Fianna Fail made a pledge to the electorate that it wouldn't allow modified crops to be grown in Ireland. Reneging on that would represent a massive U-turn on a key area of environmental policy," Ms McKenna said.

The EU standing committee on food failed last week to secure agreement on the Labelling Directive as it applies to modified foods. The Green MEP, Ms Nuala Ahern, said the stance was failing consumers. "The endless delay in putting into place detailed rules for labelling the two first products, soya and maize, already in the market place is not acceptable."

The commission now seemed to favour labelling where any modified DNA (genetic material) or protein survives into the end product. "Our understanding is it would only apply to 5 per cent of (modified) processed foodstuffs."