Northern Ireland became the second European Union member state to pass a national GMO ban on Monday.
Minister of Environment Mark H Durkan said the relatively small size of farms in Northern Ireland could create “potential difficulties if we were to seek to keep GM and non-GM crops separate”. He said the costs of maintaining separateness could be expensive and impractical.
“Further, we are rightly proud of our natural environment and rich biodiversity,” he said. “We are perceived internationally to have a clean and green image. I am concerned that the growing of GM crops, which I acknowledge is controversial, could potentially damage that image.”
The European Union said earlier this year that its 28 member states could adopt their own positions on the issue.
Each regional assembly within the UK is making its own decision. In August, Scotland announced its own such measure, the first country to do so following the change in EU rules that allows individual members to ban crops from being grown within their sovereign borders even if they’re approved for production within the wider union.
Eighteen million farmers in 28 countries grow GM crops on 181 million hectares, which is 13% of the world’s arable land. The main producers are the USA, Brazil and Argentina, and the leading GM crops are soya and maize.
Before GM crops can be grown in the EU, they have to be authorised. So far 48 genetically modified organisms have been licensed for potential use in animal feed in the EU.