GM spuds have had their chips as Irish trials stopped (13/3/2007)

By Aideen Sheehan
Irish Independent, 12 March 2007

CHEMICAL giant BASF has abandoned its plans to grow genetically modified potatoes in Ireland.

It is now opting to grow them in Britain where there are fewer restrictions

A company spokesperson confirmed that the company would not be going ahead with field trials in Co Meath which received approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year.

BASF delayed starting the trial last year citing the onerous monitoring requirements imposed by the EPA. The firm said at the time that it would assess whether it could find a way to proceed in 2007.

However, a spokesperson has confirmed to the Irish Independent that the company has decided to abandon the Irish experiment and has opted to trial the GM potatoes in Britain instead, provoking the ire of environmentalists there.

The potatoes are genetically altered to improve resistance to blight, the most serious potato pest, with opponents claiming they could contaminate conventional crops.

"We don't need GM potatoes and there is no consumer demand for them. The Government should promote safe and sustainable agriculture, not this half-baked GM potato plan," said Friends of the Earth campaigner Clare Oxborrow.

Although the GM experiment is slow to take off in Ireland, the GM-Free Ireland network claimed last week that Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan is determined to legalise the release of GM crops after the general election.

Regulations on the co-existence of GM and conventional crops are expected to be finalised, but opponents want controls tight enough to make it almost impossible to grow GM food.

A number of county councils around the country have declared themselves GM-free zones, but this has no legal power as the EPA is the body charged with approving the cultivation of GM organisms.

However, official figures show that hundreds of thousands of tonnes of genetically modified (GM) animal feed are now being imported each year.

Up to 95pc of all the maize and soya brought into the country for use as animal feed is genetically modified, which is legal as long as it is correctly labelled.

Some 464,000 tonnes of GM maize, 204,000 tonnes of GM soya and 4,300 tonnes of GM rape-seed were imported last year.

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