Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to

 Header Item Ceisteanna - Questions
 Header Item Biotechnology Industry

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 990 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 92 Next Page Last Page

Ceisteanna - Questions

Acting Chairman (Deputy John Lahart): Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart It is proposed that we have just two groups of questions, with a total of 30 minutes for questions to the Taoiseach. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Biotechnology Industry

 1. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the role his officials have in implementing the bio-economy framework which was launched a year ago; and the actions that have been taken since. [47452/19]

 2. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the role his Department has in implementing the bio-economy framework which was launched a year ago; and the actions that have been taken since. [49141/19]

 3. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will report on the role of his Department in implementing the bio-economy framework. [50047/19]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, together.

My Department co-ordinated the development of the national policy statement on the bioeconomy which was published in March 2018. This delivered on commitments given in the Action Plan for Jobs and the Action Plan for Rural Development and built on actions in Food Wise 2025.

The policy statement sets out Ireland's ambition to be a global leader in the bioeconomy and outlines a policy framework to underpin the successful development of the bioeconomy in this country. The policy statement identifies actions to expand the bioeconomy, including promoting greater coherence between the many sectors of the bioeconomy; strengthening the development of promising bio-based products and growing the relevant markets for them; removing regulatory constraints; and accessing funding available at national and EU level as well as leveraging private investment. The Government has mandated an implementation group, jointly chaired by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, to co-ordinate the implementation of the policy statement. The group is working in close collaboration with industry and other partners to bring forward further recommendations to develop the bioeconomy. The membership of this bioeconomy implementation group includes officials from my Department as well as from other relevant Departments and agencies.

The first progress report from this bioeconomy implementation group was published on 3 September 2019. The progress report highlights activities undertaken in the areas of policy integration and coherence, industrial and commercial development, progression of leading bioeconomy value chains and awareness raising and financing. Many of the recommendations identified in this progress report dovetail with the actions identified in Project Ireland 2040, Future Jobs Ireland and the climate action plan.

Detailed questions on development of the bioeconomy in Ireland are a matter for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, who have lead responsibility in this important area.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It is important to focus on the wider bioeconomy in order to take sustainability to a more strategic level and show how Ireland can both address the environmental emergency and provide the good, secure and sustainable jobs we require.

When the national framework document for the development of the bioeconomy was published 20 months ago it was welcomed, but it has to be said that there was much scepticism about the Government's intentions. Some 51 submissions were made in the consultation process, providing a long list of very specific proposals for action. However, the final framework focused instead on general statements of intent and certainly was not an action plan of the type the Government likes to launch in many other areas. It was published without an implementation plan and only the vaguest statements about specific Government funding or actions.

Last year, one company, Glanbia, spent more on one bioeconomy project than was spent on all Government-funded activities put together. Very important activity is under way in this area, much of it for several years. However the evidence indicates that there has not been a dramatic step change. Despite this, the Taoiseach still talks about having a vision for global leadership in this sector. It is similar to the target for electric vehicles, something which the Government is happy to talk about but fails to back up with any credible strategy or demonstration of the capacity to achieve it.

Can the Taoiseach tell us if the bioeconomy framework is being implemented? What specific targets has he set to achieve the stated objective of achieving global leadership in this field?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett The bioeconomy strategy pays lip service to forestry and its importance to the bioeconomy, biodiversity, a circular economy, etc. However, the actuality of Government policy suggests that all of this is just lip service and nothing more. A report by Mr. Jim Mackinnon, commissioned by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, has come out just this month. Frankly, it is damning of Government forestry policy. It points out that there is no coherence of targets. The Government has three different targets. We do not have enough foresters or inspectors. There is no serious campaign to win people over to the value and virtues of forestry. There are problems with the excessive emphasis on the industrial model of forestry. There are huge backlogs in the processing of applications because we do not have enough people working in the sector. Most damning of all, this year there is a target, which the Taoiseach has announced on several occasions, of planting 8,000 ha of forestry. The actual rate of tree-planting this year is the lowest in 30 years, at 3,250 ha. There is a consistent pattern of the Government failing to meet its own targets by a long chalk when it comes to forestry. From the points of view of biodiversity, climate change and the bioeconomy, can we get more than lip service when it comes to an afforestation programme?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The constituency I share with the Taoiseach has seen the investment of billions of euro in plants in the Dublin 15 area which manufacture biological drugs. They are at the cutting edge of modern medical treatments which are particularly important for children with rare conditions and diseases. Regarding the bioeconomy, we know clean air is critical to the wellness of both adults and children. However, clean air is not in evidence on many days of the year, particularly in Dublin and other big city areas in Ireland. A bioeconomy project could provide clean air for the citizens of urban areas. The report talks about focusing on education, training and skills. Clean air in cities will require greening cities and neighbourhoods. Trees act like giant vacuum cleaners and clean the air.

Another key bioeconomy project is public transport. If we want to get people out of their cars and reduce the pollution they produce, we need a public transport system. At the moment, it is still unclear whether a public transport proposal for Dublin will involve cutting down thousands of trees in the city. This Government has a problem with producing joined-up ideas that make sense in the context of the fantastic potential of the bioeconomy. We are already aware of this potential with the investment in our own constituency.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan If we are to have a proper bioeconomy we need a wider national land use plan, one which maps our approach to climate change and the biodiversity crisis and recognises that all different end uses are interconnected - what we do in forestry, how we restore peatlands and what type of farming takes place where.

Last Updated: 21/07/2020 10:27:04 First Page Previous Page Page of 92 Next Page Last Page