A scam has been going on in Ireland for more than a decade.
The growing of wheat fodder has become such a big business that farmers and traders are willing to pay big money for it.
It has now gone to the extent that a company, Paddy’s Grain, is now being sued by a farmer who says he was tricked into buying grain from a company with no licence to grow it.
This year, Paddys Grain was fined €20,000 by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs for using “a false representation to obtain a licence for the growing of hay”.
The company was investigated by gardaí for “gross misconduct” but has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing.
The case is the latest to raise serious questions about the way the Irish Government has dealt with the issue of genetically modified food, particularly in the face of mounting scientific evidence.
It was revealed in March that an Irish company called GrainProgeny was selling genetically modified grain to farmers in the Irish counties of Cork, Kerry and Waterford, but had been banned from doing so by the Garda Síochána.
The company’s chairman, Patrick O’Neill, was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for misleading a garda and was ordered to pay a €1,000 fine and court costs.
The Department of Health and the Department for Agriculture and Food have both said they are taking action to crack down on the fraud.
But experts said that while it is important that farmers have the tools to prevent the contamination of their own crop, there needs to be a proper investigation into how farmers were tricked into getting their hands on such a huge quantity of grain.
It is not clear what the actual rules of the game are for farmers in Ireland, where farmers are responsible for the safety of their crops and can be fined for violations of those rules, said Michael O’Shea, senior lecturer in the Department and Public Health at the University of Limerick.
But he said there is “no doubt” that farmers are “getting duped into buying seed that they know is not growing properly”.
“This is not something we would be too surprised to see happen,” he said.
He added that it is also “not just the farmers who are getting duped.
They’re also the people who are using the seeds that have been modified.”
There is “an enormous amount of pressure on farmers to produce more than they can,” said O’Kelly.
“The people who have to make that decision are also the consumers.”
O’Kelly said there has been a significant increase in cases of fraud over the last two years, with “a lot of it coming from farmers who have just been duped”.
“I would say that it’s become a big issue and it is one that is going to become even bigger as the Gardai continue to come up with new offences.”
Irish farmers have been urged to check the labels on their crop and “look for anything that looks like a different type of wheat than what they are told it is”.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) said it is “saddened” that the “pipeline of fraud” continues.
“There has been such a large increase in the number of people getting into seed fraud and fraud in general,” said John O’Connor, the NFU’s agriculture representative.
“We hope that farmers will now take the appropriate measures to ensure that they can stop the contamination before it reaches the consumer.”