Dáil Éireann - Volume 507 - 24 June, 1999

Written Answers. - Genetically Modified Organisms.

79. Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if he will be supporting the Greek declaration at the forthcoming EU Environment Council to place a moratorium on any further crop approvals in the EU until the revision of directive 90/220 on the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms is completed; and his views on whether this is the best opportunity to deliver a moratorium on new genetically modified crops in Ireland. [16218/99]

[158] 80. Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government his Department's position vis-à-vis the proposal by the German Presidency to create a central EU body for approving genetically modified crops thus bypassing the existing procedures under Articles 16 and 21 of Directive 90/220. [16219/99]

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey): I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 80 together.

In advance of any discussion on these issues at the meeting of the European Council of Environment Ministers on 24 June and pending the completion of my review of national environmental policy on genetically modified organisms which I initiated last year, it would be premature for me to announce positions on these proposals.

81. Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if he will be supporting attempts by the Swedish Environment Minister to have ethical considerations included in the assessment process for genetically modified crops in the EU. [16220/99]

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey): I understand that this issue may be raised at the Council of Environment Ministers meeting on 24 June in the context of the proposed amendment of Directive 90/220/EEC. Pending any such discussion by Ministers, I do not propose to comment at this stage.

82. Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the efforts, if any, he has made to re-establish dialogue with non-Government organisations since the collapse of the consultation process on genetically modified organisms; and if he will meet with a delegation of these organisations in the near future to hear their concerns regarding the way the process was designed. [16221/99]

83. Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the ongoing consultative arrangements, if any, he has in place to hear and respond to the concerns of environmental non-Government organisations in relation to genetically modified organisms in view of the rate at which new information regularly appears highlighting the potential environmental damage which could be caused by genetically modified crops. [16222/99]

84. Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government whether he is committed to a partnership approach on environmental matters in view of his refusal to meet with representatives of key organisations in relation to genetically modified organisms. [16223/99]

[159] Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey): I propose to take Questions Nos. 82, 83 and 84 together.

With regard to the consultation process on genetically modified organisms and the environment, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that it did not collapse; the public debate stage was concluded on 3 June 1999, and I am currently awaiting the report of the independent chairing panel.

As far as I am concerned, dialogue with non-governmental organisations has not broken down. Two such organisations participated in both consultation debates. My Department was subsequently contacted by the Irish Wildlife Federation and has received correspondence from Genetic Concern. I have also received separate correspondence directly from Genetic Concern. I am fully satisfied that the open, democratic consultation process on genetically modified organisms and the environment which I initiated in August 1998 and which attracted some 200 written responses, was fully in keeping with a partnership approach on environmental matters.