What makes your approach innovative?
This project embodies a collaborative international multi-stakeholder strategy to address a major GM contamination disaster before it happens.
We launched the GM-free Ireland Network on Earth Day 2004. We declared 1,000 local GMO-free zones one year later. We now have the greatest number and broadest diversity of stakeholders of any NGO on this island. In 2008 we convinced the Agriculture Ministers on both sides of our border to back our GMO-free zone policy. In October 2009 the Irish Government declared its intention to ban GM crops and to introduce a voluntary GM-free label for animal produce made without the use of GM animal feed.
We announced our new goal to designate Ireland as a GMO-free biosafety reserve for Europe at the Food and Democracy Conference in Switzerland in April 2009. If this project secures the desired political backing in the EU, it will set a legal precedent with strategic implications for concurrent GM-free zone initiatives around the world.
How will you sustain your solution?
Our first step is to mobilise Irish farmers, consumers and other stakeholders to lobby our Government to implement its agreed GM-free zone policy with related legislation, and to convince the Northern Ireland Assembly to extend this policy to the whole island of Ireland.
Our second step is to secure international support from EU member states, European Institutions, NGOs, academia, seed developers and the agri-food and eco-tourism sectors.
Our third step is to obtain a Resolution from the European Parliament, and legislation from the European Commission to keep the island of Ireland permanently off-limits to any environmental release of Genetically Modified Living Organisms (GMLOs).
To ensure the sustainability of this project, our final steps will support the Irish Seed Savers Association, foster the emergence of a local agricultural seed industry, and hold our Government accountable to prevent the release of GMLOs through vigilant import controls, strict liability and punitive fines for genetic trespass.
What will be the impact of your solution?
At the local level, implementation of Ireland’s policy to ban GM crops and introduce a voluntary GM-free label for animal produce will provide our farmers and food producers with a unique selling point: the most credible safe GM-free food brand in Europe. This will foster sustainable agriculture, and wean our livestock farmers off their dependence on imported GM animal feed which has negative impacts in the producing countries.
At the European level, keeping Ireland as a GMO-free biosafety reserve will safeguard agricultural biodiversity, regional self-reliance, food safety, food security and food sovereignty. It will also provide the capacity to recover from major GM contamination incidents with a secure location to develop and propagate GM-free agricultural seeds for future generations.
At the global level, the establishment of this GM-free biosafety reserve will set a political and legal precedent that strengthens international resistance to the privatisation of the food chain with patented GM crops.