Irish mount guard for GM sugar beet trials
FIELD trials of genetically-modified sugar beet by the American multinational, Monsanto, have been given the official go-ahead in the Irish Republic – but they will take place under guard because of sabotage fears.
The first Irish trial, conducted amid huge controversy on a state research farm in County Carlow last year, was sabotaged just before harvesting. A group of environmental activists calling themselves the Gaelic Earth Liberation Front broke into the farm and destroyed the crop – then issued a warning of further action if trials continued.
Monsanto, which called in the Irish police to investigate what it termed "the wanton damage", responded by applying to the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for permission to conduct trials at 10 different sites across the country. It asked that the farms involved be kept confidential to avoid "harassment and attempted intimidation" by environmental protesters.
When the EPA insisted that sites involved in the trials must be publicly identified, five of the farmers withdrew. Now, despite public protests and almost 4000 written objections, the EPA has approved trials at the five remaining sites – one of which is already being picketed – will now be under strict security surveillance.
The aim of the trials is to produce a genetically-modified sugar beet crop which will be resistant to the herbicide Round-Up, manufactured by Monsanto. But opponents claim that the use of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) may pose a danger both to the environment and to public health, and that consumers eating such crops could be susceptible to antibiotic resistance and to allergies.
In announcing its decision, the EPA acknowledged "this public concern", but insisted that the trials would be conducted under very strict conditions.
But Irish MP, John Gormley, said the Monsanto trials would put in jeopardy "Irelands reputation as a clean, green country which produces food that has not been tampered with". *