Non-GM soybeans and GM-free labels sought
+ Comment by GM-free Ireland
2.IRISH CALLS FOR EU GM-FREE LABELLING OF MEAT AND DAIRY PRODUCE
1.CONVENTIONAL SOYBEAN VARIETIES
Morning Sun (Kansas, USA), 17 January 2009
PITTSBURG - The following is some information that was provided by Bill Schapaugh, who is the soybean breeder at K-State [Kansas State University]. Bill has been the soybean breeder at K-State for many years and is responsible for most of the varieties of soybeans that have been released from K-State in the last twenty years.
To produce any of these three varieties, producers must sign a licensing agreement which specifies how the varieties can be used. It should be possible to replant the seed of these conventional varieties. There are also a few conventional varieties available from commercial seed companies, and from public breeding programs at the University of Nebraska, University of Missouri, and Iowa State University. An older Group V conventional variety, Hutcheson, is also still being produced as certified seed in Kansas. For more information, call Kansas Crop Improvement Association at 785-532-6118.
One of the challenges in selecting conventional varieties is evaluating their yield potential. It has been several years since any of these varieties have been included in the K-State SoybeanPerformance Test, so it is hard to know how well they yield compared to the most recent Roundup Ready varieties. The K-State soybean breeding program has been phasing out its development of Roundup Ready varieties over the past two years, and is now actively developing new conventional varieties in maturity groups III, IV, and V. There should be two or three of these experimental conventional soybean lines in the K-State Soybean Performance Test in 2009. In addition, hundreds of advanced experimental lines and thousands of preliminary experimental lines are being tested at K-State.
In the 2009 Performance Test, we will have two or more locations specifically for conventional soybean varieties. In these conventional soybean variety performance tests, we will have public varieties and have invited all commercial companies to enter their conventional varieties. There will be some Roundup Ready varieties included as checks in these tests.
The K-State breeding program is also working with Monsanto to obtain a license to produce new Roundup Ready 2 Yield varieties, but does not yet have an agreement.
Comment by GM-free Ireland, 18 January 2009
Ireland is the biggest importer of GM animal feed commodities in the European Union. Following our Government's agreement to keep this island off-limits to GM crops in 2007, the agri-biotech brigade is understandably worried that Irish farmers may also phase out GM animal feed.
A desperate propaganda war is being waged against Irish farmers by the main GM exporting countries (USA, Canada and Argentina), GM seed suppliers (Monsanto, BASF, Syngenta et al), GM traders (Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, and Bunge), GM feed importers (represented by the Irish Grain and Feed Association), international agri-biotech industry lobbyists like Prof David McConnell of the European Action on Global Life Sciences (and the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at TCD, and the Irish Times Trust), Teagasc (the Irish Food and Agriculture Authority), some departments of University College Cork, and various others operating under the aegis of "science communication".
The Irish Grain and Feed Association denies the scientific evidence of disease linked to GM animal feed, and wants farmers to believe three big lies:
a. the myth that there is no market for meat, poultry and dairy produce fed on certified Non-GM animal feed;
b. that if such a market did exist, GM-free animal feed would not be available; and
c. that if GM-free animal feed were available, Irish farmers could not afford it.
This propaganda aims to keep Irish farmers ignorant of what their EU competitors already know:
The European market for GM free meat, poultry and dairy produce is growing rapidly
In 2004, 60 top European food brands and food retailers banned GM ingredients from their own-brand produce. In 2005, a million EU citizens signed a petition demanding mandatory EU labelling for meat, poultry and dairy produce from livestock fed on GM ingredients. See No Market for GM-food in Europe http://www.gmfreeireland.org/downloads/NoMarketForGMFood.pdf (2MB pdf).
A growing number of leading European food brands and food retailers are beginning to also exclude meat, poultry and dairy produce from livestock fed on GM ingredients in their own-brand foods, and adopting voluntary "GM-free" or "Non-GMO" labels for their best animal produce. Farmers and food producers in 50 European Regions have adopted Quality Agriculture strategies which avoid the use of GM animal feed. For more information, see the proceedings of the Second International Non-GMO Soy Summit: Strategic alliances for sustainable, responsible, Non-GMO soy held in Brussels, 7-9 October 2008: http://www.nongmosoysummit.com.
Switzerland will host the related 5th European Conference on GMO-free Regions (Food and Democracy) at Lucerne, on 24-25 April 2009, with representatives of 230 regions and 4200 municipalities of Europe that have declared agriculture on their territory as GMO-free: http://www.gmo-free-regions.org/food-democracy-april-2009.html
Certified GM-free animal feed is available
100% of soya and 99% of maize grown in Europe is GM-free.
In Brazil's major soy-producing state of ParanÃ¡, farmers planted more Non-GM soy beans in response to European market demand for the 2008/09 crop. According to a press release issued by the ParanÃ¡ State News Agency on 18 December 2008, seed traders in ParanÃ¡ offered more conventional soya seeds than transgenic ones for the 2008/09 harvest. The Secretary for Agriculture and Supply Valter Bianchini said that farmers already grew more Non-GMO soya for the previous harvest in 2007/08 because of lower production costs.
As the above article shows, similar moves are underway in the USA. Growing numbers of American farmers are giving up growing GM soya because of the rising cost of patented GM seeds, the related prohibition to save and plant their own GM seeds, threats of patent infringement lawsuits, and the premia they can obtain from certified Non-GM soybeans.
Certified Non-GM soy meal will become cheaper as the supply increases
More farmers in the major soy producing countries (USA, Canada, Argentina and Brazil) will switch to growing Non-GM soya if the European market demands it. So long as they can obtain uncontaminated seed, soy farmers can convert from growing GM to Non-GM soy in one season. (Because soya is a self-pollinating crop, GM soy does not cross-contaminate conventional soy crops in perpetuity, as is the case with GM maize and GM oilseed rape.)
Irish farmers wishing to source certified Non-GM soy meal and maize by-products need to break the GM cartel run by the Irish Grain and Feed Association. Doing so requires a segregated feed chain, bulk orders, regional coordination, forward planning, frame contracts, and a national certification and labelling scheme for Non-GM meat, poultry and dairy produce.
On 15 January 2009, at a meeting of the Irish Government's Joint Oireachtas (Parliament and Senate) Committee on European Affairs, the President of the Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers Association, Malcolm Thompson, said:
"The ICSA would like to see a retail environment where consumers are always able to choose European product where the quality and origin is clearly defined and easily understood. We see this as a system of regulated logos and labels whereby farmers are recognised for their efforts. Each product would indicate country of origin and demonstrate that it was produced to the EU baseline standard. For those producers who go to the next level, those producers who go that extra mile and participate in REPS or who are farming organically, or who can certify that their product is GM free or grass fed, should have their niche also clearly identified on the label."
The GM-free Ireland Network lobbied the Government to set up this certification and labelling scheme in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Their failure to do so continues to damage what remains of our reputation as Ireland the food island.
2.IRISH CALLS FOR EU GM-FREE LABELLING OF MEAT AND DAIRY PRODUCE
Extracts from the meeting of the Joint [Parliament and Senate] Committee on European Affairs
15 January 2009:
[ For full transcript see
and further links from that web page ]
AGENDA: resumed discussion on the EU Green Paper on Agricultural Product Quality: Product Standards, Farming Requirements and Quality Schemes.
Mr. Malcolm Thompson, President, Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers Association:
I thank the committee members for the opportunity to present the views of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association, ICSA, on the questions posed by the EU Green Paper on agriculture. It is not possible in the time allocated to me to go through our document in full but it has been circulated to the committee members.
I will deal briefly with the substantive issues. I am indebted to my colleague Gillian Westbrook for the technical research. If the committee members have any technical questions I will pass them to her.
Consumers have highlighted concern about modern farming practices and methods of food production but they are often unaware of the efforts and changes made by farmers to elevate the quality of their produce. The introduction of the single farm payment, for instance, brought in onerous cross-compliance rules.
However, the consumer is often unaware of the efforts and changes made by farmers in order to elevate the quality of their produce. The introduction of the single farm payment, for instance, brought with it onerous cross-compliance rules and strengthened traceability controls. In addition, many farmers have volunteered to go that extra mile by deciding to produce food and to farm in ways which impose further restrictions, such as organic farming, GM free farming, participation in environmental programmes, etc. Schemes such as REPS have responded to societal demands regarding the environmental impact of farming. This means farmers are now producing food that has a lot of value added at farm gate level and that offers consumers a choice of quality standards that are unsurpassed anywhere else in the world.
EU agriculture is now multi-functional, providing top quality food which addressing many concerns such as environmental protection and biodiversity. The challenge now is to communicate this to the discerning consumer and to ensure that farmers get recognition which translates into better prices for their efforts. At present, consumer is unable to clearly identify these additional attributes. The Green Paper correctly outlines the need to ensure that additional quality aspects of EU food production are communicated and communicated effectively to the consumer. Moreover, it reflects the fact that telling the consumer about quality can be done in a way that the consumer can understand, can depend on and can trust. Consumers must be given information that allows them to make a fair comparison between various food choices and the farming practices involved. For this reason the ICSA recommends the development of a policy and legislative framework that builds on what has already been done.
It would provide consumers with information on baseline farming standards while at the same time allowing for extension into additional standards, such as those found in REPS in organic farming, in GM free methods of production.
We are proposing that the country of origin of all primary produce is clearly displayed on the label and consider this is especially important for products of animal origin. The current beef labelling legislation is flawed in that exemptions within the labelling requirements make it ineffective for both the consumer and the producer. Within our own national legislation, which requires country of origin labelling in catering establishments, beef burgers that contain less than 99% meat do not have to display the country of origin. An integral part of any new strategy must include country of origin labelling as a basic requirement for any primary product.
With regard to definitions of optional and general reserve terms, we suggest that it is necessary for the EU to define “reserve terms” describing farming methods, in particular those that are becoming more popular in current consumer trends, for example, grass fed beef or low carbon food, but with a degree of flexibility to take into consideration regional and climatic variations that would very much impact on Irish production. Some member states are already considering sponsoring a low carbon award scheme for the farming industry. This should be extended EU wide if EU products are to remain competitive in their own marketplace.
With regard to the use of international standards, there are many contentious issues when comparing international with EU standards. For example, the US will not accept cheese made from unpasteurised milk and the Europeans will not accept hormones in beef. The EU should take into consideration the international standard but place the requirements of the European consumer first. That is, after all, under the umbrella of consumer protection.
Current EU schemes, coupled with an amended labelling legislation, could well form the basis for the way forward. However, it is clear that the implementation of the regulations must be intelligently focused and steered more towards the source rather than the user in the case of feed products. An example is the recent PCB dioxin scare where the feed recycler had not been inspected for the previous 12 months. Irish producers need to be encouraged to make more use of geographic indications. Currently, only four Irish producers are registered to do so. The low uptake on this may be due to the lengthy bureaucratic process that it takes to become registered. The scheme does, however, add value to produce.
In recent years, there has been a notable increase in farm certification schemes, mainly from privately owned certifiers. The ICSA recognises the benefit of certification schemes in assisting with the marketing of produce. The question of whether certification schemes actually enhance product quality will greatly depend on the scheme and the specific commodity. If the EU were to make a guideline, it should require certification schemes to demonstrate progressive developments that are beneficial to food safety and respond to consumer interests, for example, animal welfare. EU guidelines should discourage unquantifiable aspects that cause meaningless paperwork with no relation to scientific risk. Certifiers should be required to undertake analytical testing and not just an audit of documentation. Ultimately, our concern is that certification should result in better product reputation and, in turn, result in better farm gate prices.
In summary, the ICSA would like to see a retain environment where consumers are always able to choose European product where the quality and origin is clearly defined and easily understood. We see this as a system of regulated logos and labels whereby farmers are recognised for their efforts. Each product would indicate country of origin and demonstrate that it was produced to the EU baseline standard. For those producers who go to the next level, those producers who go that extra mile and participate in REPS or who are farming organically, or who can certify that their product is GM free or grass fed, should have their niche also clearly identified on the label.
While the eventual design of the label and the logo will, I have no doubt, come down to those marketing experts who are good at that job, key elements for a logo should be a readily recognisable national symbol such as the Irish map or the Irish flag, as well as the EU logo, and incorporating symbols which would indicate the specific attributes of the product. For example, an “O” in the middle of the logo would mean it was an organic product. It would be clear, therefore, that the logo would not be available to countries outside the EU.
In the long term, clear labelling will facilitate the marketing and sale of our product. It is high time that the consumer’s right to simple unambiguous information is vindicated and EU farmers received a price that reflects the quality of their produce. A wise man once said that quality is like buying oats; if one wants nice clean oats, one must play a fair price but that if one is satisfied with oats that have already been through the horse, such oats can be had a little cheaper.
Senator John Hanafin:
... I would like to see the EU with a sufficient supply in the bloc itself. As part of that, Ireland should be at the forefront of quality, clean food. Within that again, there should be quite clear subsections. If somebody wishes to have non-GM food, then he or she should be able to access it. If somebody wants to have organic food, they should be able to access that. The wealthy customer in Europe who is prepared to pay more for quality Irish products should be able to see that they are getting them. In Ireland, the fuchsia brand for west Cork has raised awareness. If we are to have an EU label at an international level, we must also have Irish quality beside it in the same way a Swiss watch means so much more than just a European watch.
Deputy Timmy Dooley:
... We like to believe food is produced at home. We have the greatest trust in our own farmers and our own producers, and we like the idea of the flag on the label. I am not too sure if the Irish flag on beef sold in France is particularly important. From visiting other countries, Irish meat products are not on the top shelf. They are largely on the bottom shelf. This is as result of an effort made by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to rationalise the animal slaughter sector, to bring about less of the competition that is leading to a race to the bottom. A more focused approach needs to be taken to the product to bring it up to the top shelf on the international markets.
Mr. Malcolm Thompson, ICSA:
I will try to deal with the questions briefly. First, Deputy Timmins asked whether quality can be improved and yes, it certainly can. The beef forum, of which we are members at present, is considering how to reward quality production and different qualities of meat. Historically, it all has been lumped into a single basket and a flat price has been paid for cattle. This probably is a way in which to go forward. Deputy Timmins also asked whether we are over-regulated and I believe we probably are not. It is highly important that regulations are in place but when they become redundant, such as in the BSE situation, they should be got rid of as rapidly as they were introduced. This was delayed for many years at huge cost to farmers.
Deputy Treacy mentioned the grass-based system and asked whether there is room for expansion. Of course there is room for expansion in Ireland. While regulations such as the nitrates directive are limiting our expansion somewhat, I believe there is a global shortage of beef and we should be encouraged to farm in an environmentally-friendly way, while simultaneously expanding our production in order that we are able to meet the food demands of the world as the green island of Ireland. Thankfully, Senator de BÃºrca was easy on me so I have nothing to say about her. Deputy Costello referred to the importance of regulations. Basically, all the other speakers tend to agree wholeheartedly with our point about labelling, that is, the consumer now is extremely important. Deputy O’Rourke mentioned the consumer and noted she had not heard farmers talking about consumers ten years ago. Of course we were but the Deputy simply was not listening to farmers. We always were talking about the consumer
because we always were trying to see where we could make a pound.
Deputy Mary O’Rourke: Yes, that is for sure.
Mr. Malcolm Thompson, ICSA:
We always were aware of the consumer and it is important to analyse consumer trends. For example, while I may consider that standard production of cattle is perfectly adequate for me, some consumers want organic product. While I may consider that standard production of cattle is fine, some consumers want product that is free of GMOs. We must cater for the tastes of those people who will pay an extra few pounds and shillings for such add-on. Moreover, this must be labelled clearly, together of course with the Irish label. Perhaps we should get away from the flag and move to a map of Ireland, because the latter is better known. As the Irish flag is practically identical to the Italian flag, the map of Ireland would be better.