In Ireland, up to 80% of feed for ruminants is provided by grass, hay and silage.
Feed for livestock is, of course, supplemented by feed rations that include imports. The pig, poultry and dairy sectors are particularly dependent on imports of GM maize and soyabean, and their by-products, as these are essential ingredients in the formulation of these feed rations.
Climatic conditions in Ireland are traditionally not suited to the cultivation of soyabean and grain maize, the most common international feed protein sources. However, Ireland supports increased domestic production of protein crops, which are of course GM-free. Since the introduction of the national coupled protein support payment in 2015, the area of protein crops, mainly beans, has increased from an average of 4,000 ha to 13,000 ha in 2017.
Ireland imported approximately 5.1 million tonnes of animal feed materials in 2018. Ireland is very dependant therefore on internationally produced grains, particularly from North and South America's and where production systems are based on GM production. Over 90% of the soyabean and 80% of the maize products imported from Argentina, Brazil, Canada and the USA are derived from genetically modified crops. Approximately 2.7 million tonnes of these imports in 2018 were GM products, constituting over 50% of total feed imports.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine implements a comprehensive control plan to verify compliance with EU feed legislation and to ensure the safety of the animal feed chain, which includes inspections of feed businesses and sampling of animal feed for chemical and microbiological contaminants. The results of the annual control plan are available from the annual report on Ireland’s National Control Plan.