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National protest against GMO potatoes on Wednesday 22 February
Monday February 20, 2006 18:27 by Michael O'Callaghan - GM-free Ireland Network mail at gmfreeireland dot org (0404) 43 885 & 087 7994 761
press conference at 12.30pm at Buswell’s hotel in Dublin + national protest at the Dail at 1.15pm
Politicians, farmers, food producers and consumers representing 80 businesses and organisations and over 32,000 people from around the country will hold a national protest at the entrance to the Dáil at 1.15pm on Wednesday 22 February to call for the Government to ban genetically modified (GM) crops in Ireland, and to request the Environmental Protection Agency from authorising the release of GMO potatoes in Co. Meath.
22 February is the deadline set by the EPA for public submissions on a proposal by BASF Plant Science GmbH to conduct a five-year GMO potato experiment at the Teagasc research centre in Summerhill, Co. Meath, located near the Hill of Tara in the Boyne Valley, one of the oldest cultivated sites in Europe. The experiment is due to begin this April and continue till October 2010. For details see http://www.gmfreeireland.org/potato
The press conference will take place at 12.30 pm sharp in the Georgian Room of Buswell’s hotel, where a line-up of Senators, TDs and representatives of farming, food and environmental groups will express their opposition to GM food and crops. Confirmed politicians include Senator David Norris (Independent), Senator James Bannon (FG), and Fianna Fail TD Michael Mulcahy (Dublin South-Central). See full line-up below.
The national protest will take place at 1.15pm at the Dail entrance on Kildare St, where citizens from around the country will deliver a petition requesting Bertie Ahern, Environment Minister Dick Roche and Health Minister Mary Harney to prevent the invasion of Ireland with GMO seeds and crops. The protestors also want the EPA to refuse permission for the GMO potato experiment due to begin this April.
The protest includes a satirical street theatre performance depicting sinister WTO and GMO corporate interests coercing the Irish Government (in potato costume) to force-feed GMO spuds down the throat of Cathleen ni Houlihan, the mythical embodiment of ancient Ireland immortalised by W.B Yeats.
For details see http://www.gmfreeireland.org/protest
For related media coverage see http://www.gmfreeireland.org/potato/media.php
12.30pm at the Georgian Room in Buswell's Hotel on Molesworth St.
Confirmed speakers (as of Monday):
Senator James Bannon. Fine Gael. Member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Local Government.
John Brennan. Chairman, Leitrim Organic Farmers Cooperative.
Frank Corcoran. Vice-President, European Environmental Bureau (EEB).
Oisin Coughlan. Director, Friends of the Earth Ireland.
Dr. Elizabeth Cullen. Co-founder, Irish Doctors Environmental Association (IDEA).
Evan Doyle, Spokesperson, Euro-Toques Ireland / European Commission of Chefs.
Padraig Fahy. Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association (IOFGA).
Kathryn Marsh. Boardmember, Organic Trust Ltd. Member of the Environmental Protection Agency GMO Advisory Committee.
Seán McArdle. Director, Irish Farmers Markets.
Seán McDonagh, SCC. Author: Patenting Life? Stop! Is corporate greed forcing us to eat genetically engineered food?
Michael Mulcahy, TD. Member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs. Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin South-Central.
Senator David Norris. Independent, University of Dublin.
Michael O'Callaghan (chairman). Co-ordinator, GM-free Ireland Network.
Eddie Punch. General Secretary, Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers Association (ICSA).
Trevor Sargent, TD. Leader, Green Party. TD for Dublin North.
For general background on GM food and farming see http://www.gmfreeireland.org
Dangers to farmers and consumers
Prof. Joe Cummins (Emeritus Professor of Genetics at the University of Western Ontario, Canada) has issued a scientific warning that the proposed Teagasc / BASF GMO potato experiment in Co. Meath presents a clear risk of contaminating conventional and organic Irish potatoes. Prof. Cummins accused BASF of making specious assumptions that could also produce toxic effects on humans and wildlife, adding "The people and wildlife of Ireland should not be exposed to inadequately tested genetic constructions". For details see
John Flynn, the new rural development chairman of the Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers Association (ICSA) said "Ireland has a very marketable clean, green image, and it is essential to maintain and develop that. Trials like this are totally counterproductive, and very damaging to that image. We will be making a submission to the EPA, arguing the case for rejecting the proposal, in the strongest possible terms. The ICSA will never allow huge commercial interests like BASF to come into Ireland and ruin the agricultural sector."
There is now overwhelming scientific evidence of deaths attributable to GM products among laboratory and farm animals and in the human population. Three recent studies of the health risks of GM foods have triggered fresh demands for GM components in human food and animal feed to be banned immediately, and have also led to accusations of criminal negligence aimed at the Irish and UK Governments and the European Commission. http://www.gmfreeireland.org/news/2005/index4.php#ban
Suppression of Freedom of Information Act
The Irish Independent revealed today that the Department of the Environment plans to exclude scientific information about GM crops from what is normally in the public domain under the Freedom of Information Act. Information Commissioner Emily O'Reilly has criticised the exclusion, saying the Act has sufficient provision to protect the commercial nature of information without excluding it. In a report to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service, she also noted the EPA’s obligation to consider the public interest in any request for confidentiality.
Yesterday, Green Party leader Trevor Sargent said the decision to exclude information was consistent with the mindset of companies rushing to patent genetically modified organisms. In a secret ruling made on 7 February, the WTO announced that various EU bans on GM crops violate the Free Trade Agreement. This reinforces growing demands for the WTO to be reformed so as to prevent unelected bureaucrats from forcing EU consumers to eat GM food whose health risks remain untested.
No market for GM food in Europe
Contaminated crops must carry a GM label. But there is no market for GM food in Europe, where GM food is rejected by the majority of food brands, retailers and consumers (http://www.gmfreeireland.org/market/index.php). GMO seeds, crops and livestock are illegal in Switzerland and prohibited or restricted by 175 regional governments and by over 4,500 local authorities & smaller areas across 22 EU countries because of their health, environmental and economic risks (http://www.gmfreeireland.org/EUmap.php). The EC admits that GM crops may cause higher costs for farmers (http://www.gmfreeireland.org/coexistence/index.php#) costs and that GM foods have no benefits to consumers
Undemocratic public consultation on GM crops
The Dept. of Agriculture and Food excluded 83% of relevant stakeholders from a public consultation based on a legally-flawed EC Recommendation for a national strategy to "ensure the co-existence" of GM crops with conventional and organic farming. After refusing to provide sufficient time for stakeholders to make informed submissions, it then waited a year before publishing its report, which gives the go-ahead for "co-existence" of GMO crops in Ireland (http://www.gmfreeireland.org/coexistence/index.php).
But GM crops can not "co-exist" without contaminating farmers crops, which must then carry a GM label, for which there is no market. They often do not perform as expected, increase the use of toxic chemicals, create "superweeds", and can never be recalled after their release.
Contaminated farmers will lose ownership of their crops
Under the WTO's Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, contaminated crops may become the property of patent owners like BASF and Monsanto. EU and Irish patent law allows these companies to file patent infringement lawsuits against contaminated farmers, and force them to pay annual patent royalties. This is part of the transnational corporate strategy to control the food supply through GMO crop patents (http://www.gmfreeireland.org/interviews/schmeiser.php).
This appropriation of our natural capital would be the biggest rip-off in the history of the State – a catastrophe for farmers, and the death blow to Ireland - the food island.
The GM-free Ireland Network
The GM-free Ireland Network (http://www.gmfreeireland.org) represents over 32,000 farmers, foresters, food producers, food distributors and exporters, leading chefs and restaurants, NGOs, professional associations, doctors, economists, lawyers, journalists, students, and consumers collaborating to keep the whole island of Ireland free of genetically modified (GM) animal feed, seeds, trees, crops, livestock, fish and food:
Please sign the GM-free Ireland petition
You can sign online at http://www.gmfreeireland.org/action
or download the petition form at http://www.gmfreeireland.org/petition