Written Answers. - Genetically Modified Organisms.

Jack Wall

Question:

53 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on recent comments by the US President that Europe's stance on GMOs was contributing to hunger and starvation in African countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19029/03]

The causes of hunger in developing countries are multi-faceted, and cannot readily be attributed to any single cause. Hunger and poverty, which are often compounded by conflict and natural disasters, can only be addressed through long-term sustainable development.

The EU acknowledges that there is the potential for biotechnology to develop agricultural production in developing countries, but it should also be noted that a number of the applications of most interest, such as drought tolerant or acid soil tolerant crops, are still the subject of research. However, biotechnology alone will not be able to address all the underlying causes of food insecurity, and as many developing countries lack the capacity to assess these issues for themselves they are naturally cautious.

Ireland accepts that sovereign countries have to make their own decisions and have the right to decide themselves whether to accept or not accept food aid containing GMOs. Ireland is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol governing biotechnology and our own approach to genetically modified foods is a "positive but precautionary" approach governed by EC legislation, the main features of which are: an emphasis on the protection of human and animal health and the environment; requirement for prior approval by a competent national authority for the use, release, or marketing of GMOs and provision for communication, consultation and joint decision making among EU member states.

The EU believes in the right of any government to apply the principles of the Cartagena Protocol. Regarding the provision of food aid, The EU's own policy is to give preference for local or regional procurement. The EU is sensitive to the fact that non-acceptance of GM food aid can result in serious logistical and humanitarian problems, and the EU's policy is to provide financial assistance, within available means, to ensure that humanitarian organisations can procure locally or regionally as much as possible.