Warning over genetically-modified animal feed
Anti-GM campaigners are waging a battle to keep a newly-approved genetically modified animal feed, which they warn is a huge threat to the environment and farmers, out of Ireland.
Protesters claim the new oilseed rape feed, which is the first live genetically modified seed to be introduced into the country, will inevitably escape into the wider environment and contaminate crops.
Farming groups have warned that a failure to keep Ireland's crops GM-free will be 'economic suicide' for the Irish farmers, with European consumers avoiding products containing the modified foodstuffs.
The GM-Free Ireland Network has launched an emergency campaign to stop the feedstuff's introduction, which it claims could contaminate existing crops, ruin organic farming and violate property rights.
The network's chairman Michael O'Callaghan said: "The concern is although it was legalised as animal feed, it's the first time that any animal feed consists of live genetically modified organisms.
"If a ship arrives in any port with this cargo, inevitably seeds will spill because they're very small, and it would become a crop."
He said if the seeds were to sprout, oil seed rape crops and wild varieties within 26 km - and possibly much further afield - would be contaminated.
There was also the additional threat of cross-pollination with other members of the Brassica family, which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnip, radish and mustard, he said.
Last month, EU commissioners approved food giant Monsanto's GT73 oilseed rape for use as animal feed in Europe.
The move followed a Council of Ministers meeting last December, which despite objections from a number of countries, did not reject the Commission's proposal to introduce the feed because of qualified majority procedures.
Minister for Environment Dick Roche, who was one of several ministers who abstained in the vote, said in January his abstention was in line with the long-standing positive but precautionary approach to modern biotechnology by successive Governments in Ireland.
He also said he had received a favourable opinion of the product from the Environmental Protection Agency.