Friday, March 23, 2012

Why Stella The Grumpy Granny Needs You

This is Stella, Ireland's self styled "grumpy granny" from the website Here she is yesterday wheeling her young grandson off to sell him at the farmer's market because he wouldn't behave himself.

OK yes, I'm joking. 

Stella isn't that grumpy at all - except when it comes to the matter of GM foods. Right now she's in the process of making an official complaint against the Pat Kenny radio show for a recent item on plans to introduce GM foods to Ireland. Stella grumps that the programme has misinformed the public on a number of key issues relating to how it explained the GM food process -  and regarding its treatment of news of new plans for Ireland which seemed to have popped up out of the blue.
Stella Coffey is a very grumpy Irish granny
I'm no goose stepping greenshirt by any stretch but I find the recent news genuinely frightening - that Teagasc (the Irish semi state agri research body) is now planning to facilitate GM potato trials in Carlow and that the deadline for public objections to the EPA is only a couple of weeks away. 

And I'm not the first one to be taken aback at just how such a vital issue for Ireland's future has managed to lurk below the media radar until almost the very last moment.

But thanks to grannies like Stella Coffey - who miss absolutely nothing (you know the kind!)  -  the word is now being spread rapidly and the troops are being rallied to resist the GM monster's latest threats. But we have to act fast. On Stella's own website she has a petition against this new initiative which I'd urge you to sign post haste. It calls for a five year moratorium on GM plans for Ireland. Stella already has collected 1,600 signatories. You'll see my signature on there, right after that of Darina Allen.

Also make sure you check out her presentation on the current Teagasc GM issue on Youtube: 

See youtube - and join the grandmother of all GM wars...
This is what Stella has to say: 

"Last Tuesday Teagasc announced that it has an application with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for a licence to grow GM potatoes at Oakpark, one of its research stations that is located in rural Carlow. You have until March 27 before 5pm to lodge a "representative" aka an objection. Remember, if Teagasc gets its way on this, the genie will be out of the bottle because there's no way of recalling these spuds when problems become evident down the line. It took 20 years for the subtle effects of DDT to become obvious - that's just one way Natures bites back."

"My grandchildren have made me realise, all over again, that we need to be wiser about how we use and abuse our world. GM food and crops scare the grandmother in me." And grumpy Irish grans do always have a way of scaring the rest of us into action so Stella might just get somewhere with her one gran campaign.
So why is it that the older generation are the only ones that seem to give a fig about our environment these days - while that once ultra politically active segment - the young adults do nowt but wander about pressing "OMG!" repeatedly into their smartphones? 
The last time we had a proper GM ruck over here was in the 1990's when gnarly campaigners turned up in Carlow to stomp GM sugar beet - leading the charge was the great self sufficiency guru himself, the late great John Seymour (who inspired the 1970's hit series "The Good Life"). Seymour, then a Wexford based smallholder, managed to get himself lifted by the rozzers for beet stomping - at almost 90 years of age! Another multi national tried again in 2007 and ended up securing approval from the EPA for GM tests, but the conditions were so stringent that they didn't bother in the end.
The late great "grump" John Seymour - pinched thanks to his bobby on the beet
Now Ireland's "GM Virginity" is in jeopardy once again. But why the fuss? What the hi de hay does it matter if we inject hippopotamus DNA into sweetcorn - if the end result is great big giant cobs of corn that thrive in wet conditions but don't attack fishermen?
Well if we can actually genetically modify and tweak our food plants in a completely safe manner to increase food quality and quantity then GM food would indeed be a truly great thing. But the big GM question is this: Can we really trust profit-driven multinationals (they're driving GM development) to tinker around with the genetics of food plants on a huge scale - when thus far we can only be certain that: (a) we don't yet understand the ultimate consequences and (b) we know that GM plants can freely interbreed with non GM plants? 

Such is the worry about GM foods that they are banned from many parts of the world. 

Genetic modification is the introduction of alien genes not naturally found in a species (animal genes can be introduced to plants or vice versa) with the intention of producing a desirable quality in that species. And though GM foods are not with us long enough (the first tomato became available in 1994) to truly evaluate whether they are dangerous, the fact that they can and do cross freely with other non GM crops suggests that if they do turn out to be harmful, we have, as Stella suggests, already let the genie out of the bottle.

OMG!! KEWL!! The kids don't care
There have already been allegations that early problems are starting to show. It is alleged that soy allergies have soared by 50% in Britain since GM soy products entered that market. There have been reports that shepherds in India have lost a quarter of sheep that grazed on GM cotton plants when none died after eating non-GM versions.

So let's ask ourselves some other questions: What has GM achieved thus far?  Have the GM food crops - so widespread now in third world countries - ended starvation in those countries as so many GM proponents have promised? Nope. Have they greatly increased corporate profits? Certainly they have. Have they increased the risk of a world ecological disaster on an unprecedented scale? That's the $64,000 question that we still don't know the answer to. 

In Ireland's case we're being told that a GM blight resistant potato would be our reward. But they're not telling us that we already have blight resistant potatoes - grown all over the world and here in Ireland which are not GM crops. The common spud variety "Sarpo" is just one of them. What they're not telling us is that these more organic blight resistant spuds aren't uniform enough in shape and size to fit into the processing machine that big corporations prefer to use to sort, wash and pack their spuds. So it's GM for the corporations not the farmer or the consumer.
Frogrange anybody?
Finally, and still on the commercial front, one thing Ireland does have left in these dark economic times is its green agri credentials. We are still the "green isle," our food grows in the best of soils and, generally speaking, by world standards, it grows in a healthy environment. That's why foreign buyers still place a premium on our produce.

In the long run we might be risking our children's and grandchildren's futures but in the short tem we'll also be throwing away our long valued quality agri reputation away with the loosing of the GM monster. There are enough anti GM people out there throughout our trading partner nations to seriously effect that reputation and damage our food exports.

If you live in Ireland, don't just place a formal objection to the EPA, phone your local politican. Email your objections to the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan at If you live outside of Ireland and wish to contribute to the global fight against GM food, write to your Irish embassy to voice your objections.

Finally, I was also joking about Stella's selling the young fella - though Teagasc just might be selling all Ireland's children down the swanny if we let them get away with loosing GM here. I'm with the grumpy grans on this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment