Approval granted for GM field trials in Republic of Ireland

Controversial field trials of GM potatoes will begin in Ireland shortly after approval was granted by the republic's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Teagasc, the republic's research and development body for the agri-food sector, applied in February to conduct the four-year trials of potatoes modified to confer resistance to blight at a 2ha site in County Carlow. A subsequent EPA consultation brought 83 submissions from stakeholders and the public.

Teagasc head of crops John Spink said: "The control of blight is becoming increasingly challenging, particularly in a wet year. If we can get to a position where we're growing potatoes with much better resistance to blight, it will make the growing of potatoes more sustainable."

But Irish Organic Farmers & Growers Association general manager Gillian Westbrook said: "There is no demand for GM foods from consumers. By taking this irresponsible step, Teagasc has ended our status as a GM-free island. It will have serious repercussions for our export market - we cannot market our green image while growing GM crops."

Field trails of potatoes genetically modified for blight resistance are already underway in Norfolk and in the Netherlands.

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