Genetically modified crops have been prohibited in Northern Ireland.

Stormont Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said he was unconvinced of the advantages of the technology. 

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The European Union said earlier this year that its 28 member states could adopt their own positions on the issue.

Mr Durkan said: "I remain unconvinced of the advantages of GM crops and I consider it prudent to prohibit their cultivation here for the foreseeable future."

No GM crops are being grown commercially in the UK but imported products like soya are being used for animal feed.

Mr Durkan added: "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."

In England, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said it will only allow GM crops to be planted and the marketing of GM food or feed products if a "robust risk assessment indicates that it is safe for people and the environment".

Scotland banned GM crops in August.

Wales is maintaining what it describes as "a restrictive and precautionary approach to GM crop cultivation".

The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) said it recognised why the Environment Minister has made the decision he has on GM cultivation. 

"This could however create problems if the Republic of Ireland adopts a different approach towards growing these crops. 

"It is important that the science is not portrayed in a negative way and that the minister recognises that in time the science behind GM crops could deliver benefits for farmers, food processors and consumers in the future."

Originally Published: Belfast Telegraph