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Food supplies could be 'under threat' warns trade group

By Linda McKee

Red tape in Europe is holding up the development of new foodstuffs, sparking fears that food supplies could be threatened in the future.

That was the message issued today by the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association (NIGTA) to Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew.

Europe could run short of food, consumers will suffer from food price increases and will be forced to buy imported food from countries where quality control is poorly regulated, NIGTA president Robin Irvine warned.

"This is not just the view of our association - I am repeating the warnings issued by Markos Kyprianou, the EU Commissioner for Food, and Marianne Fischer Boel, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture," he told the Agriculture Minister.

The food that will have to be imported will be produced from crop varieties that are denied to European farmers because the EU system of approving new GM varieties takes two years longer than other countries. At present, the European Food Safety Authority is in the process of assessing 90 varieties. The irony of the situation is that the food that will have to be imported will be produced from the crop varieties which are denied to European farmers, he said.

"While food production in other countries enjoys the benefits of new science and technology, the European system plods along several years out-of-date," Mr Irvine said. "This failure of the approval system has led to the loss of 1m tonnes of feed materials in Ireland alone and has inflicted a massive cost penalty on local livestock producers."

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