Michael O'Callaghan founded the multi-stakeholder GM-FREE IRELAND NETWORK in Dublin in 2005 to coordinate the campaign to keep the whole island of Ireland off-limits to the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops, fish, livestock and insects, which the Irish and British governments were promoting at the time, despite the precautionary principle and widespread scientific evidence of their negative health, environmental, social and economic impacts.
He first designed the GM-free Ireland stamp show above as the project logo. He then made the infographic poster shown below (with related detailed county maps online) to declare 1,000 GMO-free zones on the island of Ireland on Earth Day 2005, when the European Commission wanted to allow cultivation of GM maize and oilseed rape in the EU member states. The poster neatly shows that Ireland is too small to grow GM rapeseed without irreversibly contaminating all farmland, protected wildlife areas and Natura 2000 sites.
This information-art strategy generated global media coverage, mobilised 131 stakeholder organisations to join the GM-free Ireland Network, led the government & the N. Ireland Assembly to agree an all-island GM-free crop policy in 2007, and —in collaboration with the other GMO-free EU Regions— prevented the Commission from approving any new GM crops.
In 2006 O'Callaghan convened the GREEN IRELAND CONFERENCE for GM-free food and farming at Kilkenny Castle. Keynote speakers included
- Vandana Shiva. Founder Navdanya. Co-founder, International Forum on Globalization. Vice-President, Slow Food International.
- Percy Schmeiser, the Canadian farmer who became an international symbol and spokesperson for independent farmers' rights and the regulation of transgenic crops during his protracted legal battle with multinational agrichemical company Monsanto. He is the subject of the 2009 film David Versus Monsanto and the 2020 film Percy (starring Christopher Walken and Christina Ricci.
- Deborah Koons Garcia, producer and director of the film, The Future of Food.
- Benedikt Haerlin, Coordinator, European Network of GMO-free Regions.