I do apologise. This is long and – for a spud sunday – it is somewhat late, but the gnarliness of the subject matter made it so. Spuds can get quite weighty at times, but I do love ’em all the same.
1. Three large bottles of Bulmers cider.
2. One 12-pack of Tayto crisps.
3. One box of Rennie’s indigestion tablets.
That’s what the ladies ahead of me at the Centra supermarket counter were buying around teatime on a Saturday evening. I presumed – and who amongst us can resist passing judgement on our neighbours’ shopping baskets – that it was the anticipated ingestion of items one and two that (hic!) had lead to the need for item three. Welcome to a little slice of modern Irish eating.
I was on my way home from a day spent at the GIY Gathering in Waterford – the 5th annual conference of the ever expanding Grow It Yourself movement – and was trying to decide what I made of the day, including the closing panel debate which dealt with the rather weighty question of whether Ireland needs GM potatoes (a subject worthy of carrying its own public health warning: this may hurt your head and you may find certain aspects hard to swallow and/or digest). I eyed up the Rennie’s but decided that it was going to take something a bit stronger to cope with the assimilation of it all.
“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.
nothing GM about these potatoes...
It’s been a long time coming, but I figure that the time is ripe to say it loud and say it proud: my name is Spud and I am a spud-a-holic (now, hands up all who are in any way surprised by this news – anyone? no, didn’t think so…).
At any rate, there can be precious few other reasons to explain why, last Wednesday, I found myself at the National Potato Conference. Yes, such a thing exists and I was there.
Mr Tayto was there too:
small wonder, as around 10% of the Irish potato
crop is used to make Tayto and other crisps in the
Largo Foods range