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High Court refuses to allow legal challenge to modified potato trials

A GROUP of environmentalists have been refused a High Court order allowing them to legally challenge genetically modified potato trials without facing the possibility of having to pay "prohibitively expensive" costs in the event that they lose their case.

Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said he had no jurisdiction to make such an order, but allowed the group leave to give short service to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or Teagasc, of their intention to challenge the costs issue.

Percy Podger, a Co Kildare farmer, who made the application on behalf of the group claimed that under article 9 of the Aarhus Convention on environmental matters the challengers were entitled to what was known as a “non prohibitively expensive order” from the court.

The court heard it would, in advance of any challenge, protect the applicants from losing their homes or assets in the event of them not succeeding in their challenge.

The legal challenge was launched today against a decision of the EPA to allow trials on a genetically modified potato to be carried out. In July the EPA gave Teagasc the go-ahead to carry out trials which are designed to fight potato blight.

The consent was subject to eight conditions including management of the trials and reporting requirements. Teagsc said at the time the field study would be isolated from the ongoing conventional potato-breeding programme. It said the project had no links to the biotechnology industry.

Judge Hogan said it was a matter for the applicants who appeared in court yesterday (Tues) to decide if and who they wished to put on notice of their intentions.

Mr Podger told the court that by putting third parties on notice the applicants were assuming a risk of costs.