Celts oppose London’s stance on GM – but for how long?

The three “Celtic” governments have united to oppose UK government plans to ease restrictions on GM cultivation in order to ease catastrophic third world food shortages, says the Independent. This is a bold decision in view of the still substantial size of their agricultural industries. NI’s Sinn Fein agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew got together with the Irish agriculture minister of state Trevor Sargant of the Green party earlier this month to work for a GM – free all Ireland, in response to pressure from the EU Commission to ease GM restrictions. I can see the political attractions for Sinn Fein in teaming up with the Greens in the south. This isn’t my field so to speak, but as far as I can see Fianna Fail and the DUP haven’t recently pronounced on the subject. Nor is it clear to me that this is Executive policy just because Ms Gildernew supports it. The Herald reports that the SNP government is leading Celtic demands to renegotiate a concordat between London and the devolved governments. “The concordat, dated April 2007, says that “every effort” should be made to arrive at an agreed UK position on GM. But if that failed “the UK negotiating position should be set by the UK government on the basis of expert scientific advice, and taking into account the views of the devolved administrations”. Ulster farmers I see want GM livestock feed to be imported in view of a huge 159% hike in feed prices in a year. Interestingly the UK minister now calling for an easing of the restrictions Ian Pearson was the Direct Rule minister who adopted a “precautionary approach” for NI four years ago. According to Geoffrey Lean of the Independent, opposition to GM from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland means that the UK will have to abstain in EU votes on easing the restrictions. Ignorant though I am on the subject of GM and while more research is needed, I have a hunch that a new phase of GM trials will be authorised soon. These should proceed unimpeded and if so, in a few year’s time GM cultivation – however controlled – will be allowed in these islands. Informed comme

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London