Call to assess Food Harvest 2020

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Press release from Friends of the Irish Environment

14 of Ireland's environmental non-governmental organisations have come together to call on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, to ensure the ambitious targets for Food Harvest 2020 are formally assessed under EU Directives before they are adopted.

Food Harvest 2020 is the agri-industry's blueprint for development. It envisages that milk and pig-meat production will increase by 50 per cent, beef and sheep output by 20 per cent, poultry production by 10 per cent and fish farming production by 78 per cent.

The environmental groups point out that the authors of Food Harvest 2020 themselves recommended that these proposals should be subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment [SEA] but that the Minister had refused this recommendation. Instead, he is proposing an ad hoc 'environmental analysis of various scenarios'.

This also runs counter to 2011 legislation implemented by Ireland under the Habitats Directive which specifically requires a formal assessment process for any activity, plan or project that may affect a protected European Natura 2000 Site - 14% of Ireland's surface. This legislation includes the process of adoption by a public authority of land use plans or projects.

The Minister, who is Chairing the High Level Implementation Committee for Food Harvest 2020, is legally required to go through a formal process which will ensure that this plan, individually or in combination with other plans or projects, will not have 'a significant effect on, or adversely affect the integrity of, any site protected under European Law.'

The submission to the consultation process also points out that

Fish farming has been excluded from the assessment on the grounds that it has already been assessed. In fact, the Department replied to a request for identification of this assessment by citing a 2008 study that assessed the implications of an increase in fish farming of 78%, largely by intensification at the exciting locations. The Minister now has a target of 300% increase, all of it at new 'off shore' sites.

Forestry policy is still based on the 1996 Growing for the Future, even though planting rates are more than 50% less than those necessary to meet that business plan. Current policies do not encourage agroforestry which an assessment would demonstrate has long-term economic, social and environmental benefits.

Anaerobic digestion, which offers one solution to the additional animal waste proposed by increased stocking rates in Food Harvest 2020, has not been supported by this and previous Governments in any meaningful way, compared, for example, to wind energy generation.

A spokesman for the groups said 'The development of a medium-term strategy for the agriculture without having a legally structured regard to environmental issues is ridiculous. The measures envisaged must be assessed to prevent, reduce and offset any significant adverse effects on the environment.'

The submission closes by noting that 'in the absence of an assurance that a legal assessment will be undertaken, some of the signatory groups will consider taking appropriate further steps such as legal action and/or formal complaints to ensure that environmental law is implemented in Ireland.'

This Friday July 7 is the deadline for submissions on Food Harvest 2020

Further information and verification: Tony Lowes 087 2176316

Read The Submission