Irish court rejects GM crop test challenge

Government decision to allow field testing of Monsanto sugar beet variety upheld

The Irish high court today upheld a government decision to allow field tests in Ireland of a genetically modified variety of sugar beet developed by life sciences multinational Monsanto. The pressure group that brought the case, alleging that modified crops posed unacceptable risks, described itself as "bitterly disappointed" by the verdict. Monsanto's sugar beet has been tested in Irish field tests over two seasons, both of which have been disrupted by anti-genetic engineering activists. Action group Genetic Concern had sought a judicial review of permission given for the field tests by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), claiming that it had failed to ensure that the trials would pose "no risk" to human health or the environment. The court rejected the argument today, ruling that relevant Irish regulations require the EPA to be satisfied that there will be no adverse effects, not that there is "zero risk". Monsanto Ireland, which had argued in court that a zero risk requirement would be unreasonable and unrealistic, described itself as "very pleased" with the court's ruling. In his judgement, justice Philip O'Sullivan also rejected several related pleas brought Genetic Concern member Rachel Watson. Ms Watson now faces possible legal costs for the cases, an issue due to be decided next week.

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