Teagasc GM potato research not affected by EU national opt-outs

The EU’s national opt-out measure on the growing of genetically modified (GM) crops will not impact on the potato blight resistance research currently underway in Ireland, according to Teagasc’s Dr Ewen Mullins.

“The opt-out clause that is being implemented by member states relates to the growing of specific crop cultivars for commercial purposes and, as such, is separate to research-based cultivation,” he said.

“So it is by no means a blanket ban. In effect what is happening is that science-based conclusions have been taken out of the final decision to grow or not grow specific GM crop varieties as they become available, leaving individual member states for the first time able to opt out based on social and other reasons.

“The recent publicity has focussed on the growing of several GM maize varieties, the majority of which would have no direct relevance to Ireland, as we do not suffer the insect infestations that the varieties have been engineered to resist”

The research scientist confirmed that the field-based component of the GM potato trials, ongoing at Teagasc Oakpark for the past three years, as part of the EU funded AMIGA project, will be concluded over the coming months.

“This is part of a collaborative project, involving 22 partners in 15 countries. We received the original GM potato cultivars from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

“They have shown a consistent resistance to blight attack. But that is only part of the story. We are also investigating the genetic fingerprint of the attacking blight organisms, to verify if this has been altered in any way, courtesy of their interaction with the GM potatoes.”

Mullins said that all of the required analysis and interpretation of the results achieved will be undertaken over the coming months with results being published in 2016.

“The land used for the trials will be sown out in grass and maintained in this state until at least 2020 as per the EPA license. We will also be monitoring the land for the germination of potato volunteers throughout this period. This has implications from both a GM and standard agronomy perspective.”

Mullins also confirmed that all GM potato tissue related to the AMIGA project will be destroyed, once the required analysis has been completed.”

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