A plan to grow genetically modified potatoes in the Irish Republic has provoked protests and warnings of crop sabotage.
German chemical giant BASF has applied to the Irish Environmental Protection Agency for permission to conduct five-year trials with GM potatoes on a farm in Summerhill, Co Meath. A decision on the application is expected within two months.
BASF says that the potatoes would be resistant to blight, an emotive disease for the Irish. Even today, blight costs Irish growers more than €10m a year in lost crop.
But that argument has done nothing to mollify critics led by campaign group GM-Free Ireland. Its spokesman Michael O’Callaghan said research should focus on non-GM ways of boosting blight resistance.
“Farmers don’t want them, consumers don’t want them and big food companies and retailers don’t want them. I would not be surprised if someone attempted to damage these trials, though that is not something we would support.”
Trevor Sargent, leader of the Green Party, warned that GM crops could “undermine Ireland’s image and reputation as a green and clean food-producing island”.