“I despise patents.”

So declared Cathal Garvey at the recent For Food’s Sake event on the future of food.
Cathal is one of a new breed of so-called bio-hackers, which he explains as the use of biotechnology techniques “to do amazing things with very little.” As he talked about a brave new world of diy genetic testing and sequencing, you could see that here was a young man who wanted to harness the power of biotechnology for good – “to create cheap antibiotics on-site in Africa, to create biofuels from household wastes, and to help us grow more food with less chemicals, water and land.” Wow. An ambitious fella too, then, but in the very best sense of that word.

Right from the off, he made it clear that he didn’t like either of the traditional sides of the GM debate, but sees, rather, that the problem is not GM per se but the patents that are held on GM crops, which reduce bio-diversity, prevent people from seed-saving and put ownership of the food supply in the hands of patent owners. For someone like me, who is predisposed to think all genetic modification undesirable, the presentation certainly provided food for thought.

I was put in mind of Cathal’s talk this week, when it was reported in the papers that Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, have applied for a license to do outdoor trials at their research centre in Oak Park, Co. Carlow on potatoes which have been genetically modified in order to enhance their resistance to late blight.

new potatoes

nothing GM about these potatoes...

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