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Planet Ark World Environment News BASF Drops Plan to Test GM Potatoes in Ireland

Date: 25-May-06
Country: IRELAND

Ireland, Europe's biggest per capita consumer of potatoes, gave the go-ahead earlier this month for BASF to grow varieties of the crop modified with improved resistance to late potato blight, which brought famine to Ireland in the 19th century.

"We've just been told they they are not going to go ahead this year," a spokeswoman for the EPA, which awarded the licence, said.

BASF Plant Science said in a statement that the EPA's consent had contained a number of conditions and that it had been looking for clarification in certain areas.

"Due to the limited time restrictions of the planting season, it has been decided not to conduct the field trials in 2006," the company said.

Having tested blight-resistant potatoes in Sweden in 2005, it would perform field trials in Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany this year, BASF's plant biotechnology unit added.

Previous trials of GM foods in Ireland have been disrupted by environmentalists.

Ireland's Green Party called on the the EPA to reverse its decision to allow GM trials.

"The EPA...must not give in to any demands from BASF," Green Party Leader Trevor Sargent said in a statement.

"Now is the opportunity to ensure that Ireland remains a GM-free producing island. Ireland's traditional GM-free food status is a key selling point for Irish food exports and must be protected."

The EPA said the licence would remain in place but would not be altered in any way.

"The licence is set now," the spokeswoman said.

Blight-resistant GM potatoes were first developed in 2003 after scientists discovered a wild potato in Mexico that is naturally resistant to the disease.

The field trials were to be have been carried out at a one hectare site in County Meath.

The licence gave BASF the right to conduct trials for five years from 2006 to 2010, with monitoring continuing until 2014.

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