Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan has announced that he is prohibiting the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in Northern Ireland.

The announcement follows an earlier EU decision to permit Member States to opt out of growing approved GM crops within their territories.

Durkan said that he remains unconvinced of the advantages of GM crops

“And I consider it prudent to prohibit their cultivation here for the foreseeable future.

“The pattern of land use here and the relatively small size of many agricultural holdings creates potential difficulties if we were to seek to keep GM and non-GM crops separate. I consider that the costs of doing so could potentially be significant and, in many cases, totally impractical.

“Further, we are rightly proud of our natural environment and rich biodiversity. We are perceived internationally to have a clean and green image. I am concerned that the growing of GM crops, which I acknowledge is controversial, could potentially damage that image.”

Durkan is also calling for the establishment of an independent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with an all-island remit.

“There must be a total alignment of the environmental governance arrangements that are put in place, north and south,” he said.

“This approach will also ensure that the optimal level of EU funding is drawn down for both jurisdictions from Brussels.”

Durkan believes that every decision taken by governments will have an impact on the economy as a whole.

“We need a circular economy,” he said.

“This will put waste recycling at the heart of a strategy which will see best use made of the natural resources that are available to us.

“Economic prosperity now must not be pursued at the expense of the environment. Society has no option but to follow this approach now and into the future.”