GREEN PARTY COUNCILLOR Malcolm Noonan is one of a number of people involved in raising a legal challenge against the EPA-approved Teagasc genetically modified (GM) potatoes trial.
The groups, which include the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association (IOFGA), are to visit the High Court today for the initial phase of their application.
Under this, they are trying to seek to limit the cost of the legal challenge to them.
The roots of the challenge are in a public consultation about Teagasc applying to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to trial GM potatoes. On 26 July, Teagasc was granted the go-ahead.
Kilkenny councillor Noonan told TheJournal.ie that 83 individuals and organisations sent in submissions on the issue, which is “quite an emotive issue particularly among growers and food producers”.
Following this, they decided to see if they could take a legal challenge against the trials.
They are applying today to take the case under an EU convention that protects individual citizens of the EU if they want to seek justice on an environmental matter.
Noonan said that “the initial wave of the GM debate in the 1990s brought out a lot of public outcry, but this time not so much”.
He said that there has been a resurgence to try and advance the issue of GM food and that he and the others involved in this case are opposed to the use of the technology on Irish crops.
He said that from the food producers’ point of view:
they are concerned as lifelong producers of food because of the impact in the open environment of field trials with GM.
Cllr Noonan said that they are also concerned with Ireland’s food production status, particularly in the EU where he said consumers have rejected GM foods. He added that the main retailers here in Ireland “regularly demand” traceability of GM food.
The Green Party councillor said producers are concerned from both an economic and ethcial viewpoint and that there is still a concern there that the Teagasc trial “is opening the door for widespread field trials”.
He said his party has always been opposed to GM, though GM has been used in animal feeds “for many years”.
The concern among producers “is really around the debasing of their economic viability of Irish products and the impact on biodiversity”.
Cllr Noonan said that organic food producers are also concerned that their crops may be affected by GM crops, which could mean that “organic producers who may be growing food right next to a field of GM crops… won’t be able to get organic status for their produce”.
Those concerns are viable and they haven’t been taken on board
In July, Teagasc said it proposed to carry out its GM research over the next four years, in order to determine the impact that a blight-resistant potato could have on the Irish agricultural environment.
The study will be isolated from the conventional potato breeding experiments and Teagasc was keen to stress that the biotechnology industry had no connection to the experiment. This means the research would have no regard for whether GM potatoes were commercially viable.