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Corporate Europe Observer

Monsanto and Novartis Blackmail Ireland

n May 1st, 1997 the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted Monsanto the first license in Ireland for a deliberate release of genetically modified organisms -- Roundup Ready sugar beet (a joint venture between Monsanto and Novartis). Clare Watson, founding member of Genetic Concern! sought a High Court Judicial Review of the EPA's decision to grant the license. An interim injunction prevented Monsanto from planting the genetically modified sugar beets in the Carlow test site (a government research center), and a Judicial Review was granted.

The injunction was later overturned, and Monsanto planted the genetically modified sugar beets on the same day. Not long after, members of the Gaelic Earth Liberation Front (GELF) destroyed the crop. The Judicial Review will begin on May 19th. If the Court finds that the license was improperly granted, then Monsanto will be forced to abandon its plans to field test the genetically modified sugar beets.

In the affidavit by Monsanto and Novartis, Novartis threatens that if Ireland does not permit the deliberate release of genetically modified products, then "it may well become uneconomic for Novartis to continue to supply traditional seed to the Irish market. Given the importance of Novartis on the Irish market, this would have serious implications for the Irish sugar beet industry."

Monsanto and Novartis both claim that any delays in the testing of their product will cause them to lose "millions of pounds" of potential profits. The companies are rushing to field test the sugar beets and get them on the market before the patent runs out in 2011. Monsanto has applied for licenses for five other field sites in areas all over the country.

The Roundup Ready sugar beets are designed to tolerate Monsanto's Roundup herbicide a product that currently accounts for 90% of Monsanto sales in Ireland. The sugar beets would be the first deliberate release of genetically modified organisms in the country.

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