GM foods and bullocks on steroids at a frictionless border
Today in this Republic, we regularly find ourselves in the slightly uncomfortable position that, in relation to Brexit, the best interests of this country and indeed of common sense are often served by the unelected House of Lords. In the latest of a series of deep and thoughtful reports, it now focuses on food safety and animal welfare.
“Brexit: Farm Animal Welfare” is concerned with potential damage to the British food industry: “In the event that post-Brexit trading relations with the wider world, and if standards diverge over time with the EU, lead to increased imports from countries operating lower farm animal welfare standards, UK producers could become uncompetitive. This could undermine the sustainability of the industry or incentivise a race to the bottom for welfare standards—contrary to the wishes of the UK industry.” The report called for all Brussels animal welfare laws to be transposed into domestic British law “to be effective on day one after Brexit”
The noble lords are not so far removed from the political fray as to miss an opportunity to time the release of their report while Trade Secretary Liam Fox is in Washington, seeking a trade deal with the Trump administration. Independent economist Michael Hughes told the BBC: “It is likely that the UK would have to water down some of the standards it currently has … in terms of genetically modified (GM) food in order to get a deal.”
GM foods are banned in the EU apart from some field trials. Other contentious food issues are likely to be growth hormones in beef cattle ( natural estrogen,progesterone, testosterone, and their synthetic versions) and the latest row to blow up in Fox’s face, chlorinated chicken (that’s chicken meat washed in bleach). Fox dismissed the issue as ‘a detail’ but the pro-EU campaign group Open Britain challenged him to back up his words by eating a chlorine-washed chicken in front of the cameras during his visit.
Here in Ireland we have to face the fact that a UK-US trade deal is highly likely in the medium term, and if that happens, relaxation of standards on GM foods and hormone-treated beef are close to a racing certainty. So how do we propose to stop GM foods and bullocks on steroids at a frictionless border? We have form in this area – back in the 1980s with 30,000 British troops on the ground and all the security resources of the Republic deployed on the border we could not stop a thriving trade in ‘Angel Dust’.