Decision due on GM potato trial


THE ENVIRONMENTAL Protection Agency is expected to decide by the end of this month whether to allow a field study on genetically modified potatoes. The State agriculture and food development authority Teagasc sought permission from the agency to carry out the study on genetically modified potatoes resistant to late blight.

Minister of State for Agriculture Shane McEntee said the trial was part of an EU research project carried out by 22 partners in 15 states. He told Sinn Féin environment spokesman Brian Stanley the main purpose of the trial was to assess the impact of the blight-resistant potato’s cultivation on the Irish ecosystem, compared to that of conventional potatoes. The research, if allowed, would look at bacterial, fungal, nematode and earthworm diversity in the soil.

Mr Stanley had asked if the Minister had had discussions with companies seeking to use the GM method to grow crops in Ireland and Mr McEntee said he had not. He pointed out that the decision on whether to allow the research rested with the environmental agency and said Government responsibility for the cultivation of GM crops lay with Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan.

The Sinn Féin Laois-Offaly TD said “my heart sank” when he realised Mr Hogan had responsibility for whether funding was allocated but Mr McEntee said Mr Stanley’s heart “should not slump when you speak of Minister Hogan and perhaps it should lift instead”. He added that “it is a trial and there should be no scaremongering either”. Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney had spoken about “building a brand” and this was about “clean, green high-quality food for the export market”.

He said the GM-free food label was one of the fastest growing in Europe and the US “and anything that would harm the brand and image of Irish agriculture would be detrimental”. Mr McEntee said he had attended a meeting with Mr Hogan and “the people concerned”. Teagasc was taking part in the trial and “it will not in any way put Ireland’s image at risk”.