Environment chiefs in Ireland have approved the country’s first trial of genetically modified potatoes.

The small 2ha trial of potatoes, which have been modified to resist blight, will go ahead in Co Carlow over the next four years.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it had given its approval for the trials following a detailed assessment. The agency said the trials would be subject to strict controls, regular reporting and monitoring.

The trials will be conducted at the Teagasc Crops Research Centre in Oak Park, the Irish food development authority that applied for the licence.

The research was being funded by public money and was not about testing the commercial viability of GM potatoes, Teagasc said in a statement.

Teagasc researcher Ewen Mullins said: “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.”

The EU has been trialling GM potato plants since 2010 in a number of countries, including the UK, The Netherlands and Belguim. Trials of blight-resistant trials are currently under way at the John Innes Centre, Norwich.

Potato blight is estimated to cost the global industry around £3bn a year due to crop failures.

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