On the 26th July 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given consent to AMIGA project partner Teagasc to carry out field trials on a genetically modified (GM) potato with improved resistance to late potato blight. On February 28th Teagasc applied to the EPA for a license as part of the research activities developed in the framework of the European funded project AMIGA “Assessing and Monitoring the Impacts of Genetically modified plants on Agro-ecosystems”. The approval comes after a detailed examination and assessment by the EPA and has been given under strict conditions. Extensive consultations with all the related state agencies and government departments, including the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) as well as the National Advisory Committee on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), have been carried out before submitting the current decision. The duration of the license is for four years, from 2012 to 2016, with post-trial monitoring continuing until 2020. As reported in Teagasc press release, Dr. Ewen Mullins, the environmental researcher involved in the AMIGA project, specifies: “We cannot simply look at the benefits without also considering the potential costs. We need to investigate whether there are long term impacts associated with this specific GM crop in carefully controlled conditions. We need to gauge how the late blight disease itself responds. This is not just a question being asked in Ireland. The same issues are arising across Europe.” In the same press release, John Spink, Head of crops research in Teagasc, explains: “The field study will be isolated from the on-going conventional potato breeding programme that has been successfully running at Oak Park for over 40 years. There are no linkages to the biotech industry on this matter so Teagasc are clear that their work is not about testing the commercial viability of GM potatoes”. The field trials in Ireland, together with similar studies conducted in The Netherlands and Finland in the framework of AMIGA, will enable the production of specific protocols for biosafety assessment of GM potatoes according to the highest scientific standards in agreement with the principles underlined in the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) Guidance Documents. Teagasc will now start their research activities in the framework of the AMIGA project with the responsibility of submitting reports to the EPA every two months and a final report every year, in order to inform the Irish authority about the trials during the growing seasons. Information about the trials and results of monitoring will be available to the public on the EPA website (www.epa.ie) as well as on the AMIGA website (www.amigaproject.eu).
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