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ASA Supports Teagasc Application for License to Research GM Potatoes

The Agricultural Science Association (ASA) has said it supports the application by Teagasc for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) license to conduct research on the potential impact of blight-resistant GM potatoes.

The ASA President Dr Karina Pierce said it is the unanimous view of the Council of ASA that impartial research should be conducted on the impact of GM crops on the environment.

“This EU-funded study is not about testing the commercial viability of GM potatoes. It is about assessing the environmental impact of growing GM potatoes in Ireland and monitoring how the blight fungus and the ecosystem react to GM strains over a number of years.”

“Impartial scientific information is critical in every area of the agri-food sector. The establishment of this trial does not mean that GM potatoes should be introduced in Ireland. That is a separate issue,” she said.

“The proposed trial involves scientific partners in 14 other EU countries. In order to build Ireland’s scientific capability, it is important that scientists in Teagasc and other Irish research institutes collaborate to the widest extent with their international peers. Operating an insular research strategy is not an option for an industry that relies on global markets for the bulk of its output,” added Dr Pierce.

She said this research must also be viewed against the background of the emergence in recent years of more aggressive potato blight strains. This has resulted in potato growers been forced to substantially increase the amount of chemicals to control the disease. This trend is not sustainable and is not in harmony with new EU regulations aimed at reducing the amount of chemicals applied to crops.