Green light for growing GM potatoes in Ireland

Thursday 26 July 2012 23.33
No more than two hectares of potatoes will be planted
No more than two hectares of potatoes will be planted

Teagasc has been granted permission to carry out field trials on a genetically modified potato that would improve resistance to blight.

The Environmental Protection Agency has attached eight conditions to the project, which will be carried out at Oak Park in Co Carlow over four years.

The EPA said it had given its approval for the scheme following a detailed examination and assessment.

This included what it described as extensive consultations, involving consideration of representations from over 80 interested parties.

The conditions also stipulate that no more that two hectares of the potatoes will be planted.

A judicial review can be sought over the next three months.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News At One, Teagasc’s head of crops John Spink said that it is currently assessing the conditions attached to the licence.

"The control of blight, as any farmer will tell know, is becoming increasingly challenging in Ireland; particularly in a wet year,” said Mr Spink.

“If we can get to the position where we're growing potatoes with much better resistance to blight it will make the growing of potatoes more sustainable."

Also speaking on the programme, John Brennan of the Leitrim Organic Farmers Association criticised the move.

"It's not just about organic farming; it's about our traditional system of farming,” he said.

Mr Brennan said they were not against the use of technology or best practice but if Ireland wanted to present itself as a “clean, green island” for food then they opposed technology “that could possibly risk that image."

The issue of genetically modified crops has long raised concerns about ecology, safety and the possibility of multinationals producing crops that would devastate the livelihood of farmers.

Its supporters say that genetic modification offers both faster crop adaptation and a biological, rather than chemical, approach to increasing yields.

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