[Sinn Fein]

6ú Nollaig 2001

Forum on Europe - Agriculture and Food Safety

Speaking at the Forum on Europe, which was held in Cork today, Sinn Fein representative Aengus O'Snodaigh said:

``The impact of the Common Agricultural Policy on rural Ireland is one of the most controversial aspects of the Irish membership of the EU.  It has transformed the business of farming in Ireland, giving us larger farms, more efficient agribusiness, and turned Irish owned firms into transnational giants.

``But it has also emptied huge parts of rural Ireland, impoverished communities and fuelled a never ending flight into urban centres and at emigration.  Two thirds of those deemed to be poor in the 26 Counties live in rural areas.

``The majority of farmers throughout Ireland earn low incomes and depend on off farm income for their long term survival. The department of Agriculture estimates that there will be a little as 20,000 full time farmers in the 26 Counties by 2010, while the Six County Department of Agriculture estimates that there will be one third less farmers in agriculture by the year 2005.

``In 1998 the Court of Auditors report showed that 10% of 26-County farmers got 66% of the total CAP funds coming into the economy. The EU has contributed to the inequality that exists in Irish agriculture and it must play a part in reversing this trend.

``Food Safety is an arena of huge concern to customers around the EU especially in the light of BSE and GM food scares.  The EU supports the development of GM foods even though it is clear that in Ireland and other EU states a majority of citizens do not want this technology in their food products. The tacit support by the EU for the development of the GM food industry must end.

``In terms of BSE, other than mass culling of herds there seems to be little evidence of a co-ordinated response at an EU level to tackle this problem.  The EU must develop a strategy that will: One, eradicate BSE; Two, seriously address the effects it is having on the human population.  We need to end the years of cover-ups and address ourselves to this problem.  Consumer confidence is key to the development of the Irish Food industry.''

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