The Irish Cattle & Sheepowners Association has called on the Government to abandon any plans to allow the use of GM technology in food production in Ireland, reports Irish Broadcaster RTE.

ICSA rural development chairman John Heney said it was imperative that Ireland, north and south, declared itself a GM-free area to protect what he called the unique and much-envied clean, green image that Irish food enjoys amongst European consumers.

He said he accepted the Irish Government's current pro-GM stance alone could not force GM food onto the plates of Irish consumers, but he felt it could have a devastating effect on the value of Irish food exports, which still accounted for 25% of Ireland's net earnings.

The outcome of a recent 2-day conference in Florence had highlighted how other European food-producing regions were responding to growing consumer resistance to GM food, he said. At the conference, 20 EU regions signed up to a 'GMO-free' charter.