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Genetically Modified Crops And Food

 The working group on Genetically Modified Organisms was established to consider the ethical issues raised by developments in genetic modification in the medical, industrial, and agricultural arenas, with particular reference to the Irish setting. It set out to specifically examine the ethical consequences of adopting GM crop and food technology in Ireland.

On 28 November 2005, the Council published the report Genetically Modified Crops and Food: Threat or Opportunity for Ireland? Opinion. 

The report considers the ethical consequences the introduction of GM crops and food in Ireland would have for consumers and farmers as well as the implications of their cultivation for the environment and citizens in developing nations. The Council hopes the report will clarify the main scientific and ethical considerations involved in the GM debate, thereby encouraging constructive discussion.

Pictured at the launch of the report: Mr Dermot Gleeson SC, Chairman of the Irish Council for Bioethics and former Attorney General (left) and Professor Peter Whittaker, Chair of the working group.


Professor Whittaker said that while the working group did not view the genetic modification of plants as morally objectionable in itself: “ethical considerations demand that new applications of genetics be based on sound science with generally acceptable objectives, and progressed in a cautious but not fearful manner”.

Public Consultation

In October 2003, a public consultation in the form of a questionnaire was undertaken. The working group received a total of 560 submissions. An analysis of the results is included as an appendix to the final report.

Terms of Reference

1. To discuss the ethical issues surrounding GMOs in general and also with particular reference to the Irish context
2. To co-opt appropriate others to the Working Group as deemed necessary
3. To seek the views of the general public on the ethical issues surrounding GMOs
4. To prepare a draft report for submission to the Irish Council for Bioethics

Working Group Members

Professor Peter Whittaker, Chairman
Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (CESAGen). Institute of Environment, Philosophy and Public Policy, Lancaster University
Dr James Burke
Mr Matt Dempsey
Irish Farmers' Journal
Dr Patrick Flanagan
Formerly, Environmental Protection Agency
Professor Patrick Hannon
St Patrick's College, National University of Ireland, Maynooth
Dr Jonathan Hughes
Centre for Professional Ethics, Keele University, UK
Dr Richard Hull
Centre of Bioethical Research and Analysis (COBRA), Department of Philosophy, National University of Ireland, Galway
Professor Tony McGleenan
School of Law, University of Ulster
Dr Tom McLoughlin
Environmental Protection Agency
Dr Nora O'Brien
Faculty of Food Science, Food Technology, and Nutrition, National University of Ireland, Cork
Professor Fergal O'Gara
Microbiology Department, National University of Ireland, Cork
Dr Patrick O’Mahony
Food Safety Authority of Ireland
Dr. Siobhán O’Sullivan
Irish Council for Bioethics
Professor Seán Strain
Centre for Molecular Biosciences, University of Ulster