Question Time: Environment Tuesday 22 September 2015

Environment Minister Mark Durkan discussed the production of genetically modified (GM) crops in Northern Ireland during today’s Question Time. The European Commission has put in place arrangements to allow member states to opt out of producing GM crops – an opportunity that the Minister intends to exploit. The Minister urged that “I remain unconvinced of their advantages. I considered it prudent to prohibit their cultivation for the foreseeable future. In addition, the pattern of land use here and the relatively small size of many agricultural holdings would create potential difficulties if we were to seek to keep GM and non-GM crops separate. I consider that the costs of doing so could be significant and, in many cases, totally impractical.” Mr Durkan is also concerned that the production of GM crops would compromise our country’s “clean, green image”. The Minister also addressed concerns about the import of GM products such as animal foodstuffs but reassured that “I am certainly satisfied that the approved varieties of genetically modified feed pose no risk to either the environment or human health.”

The Minister then discussed the important issue of climate change and his intention to attend the 2015 United Nations’ climate change conference in Paris. Mr Durkan highlighted the negative impact that severe weather events has had on our health, homes, businesses and way of life, emphasising the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “The main aim of the 2015 United Nations conference in Paris will be to achieve a new international agreement to create the vital framework that the world needs to limit the average global temperature increase to below 2°C. By successfully doing so, we will help to combat climate change effectively, boost the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. ” The Minister stressed how critical it is to deliver a global climate agreement that is unquestionably in our, and the entire global community's, best interests.

During Question Time the Minister also answered questions on the environmental impact of the Sellafield nuclear power plant incident, environmental protection and car parking at Belfast City Airport. During the period for topical questions Mr Durkan also answered questions on the northern area plan, the Environmental Protection Agency and the environmental impact of bonfire sites.

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