The #gmpotato Community of Inquiry project aimed to inform policy, facilitate public debate and dialogue between stakeholders involved in both the proposal of, and resistance to, the GM potato, as well as the wider public. An EPA-funded project at DCU that ran alongside a major Teagasc project in collaboration with an EC consortium (AMIGA), to trial a variety of potato called Desiree which was genetically-modified (GM) to be blight resistant. The Celsius research group at DCU was awarded funding from the EPA to run a citizens’ jury in the town of Carlow, near the site of the potato trials. The objective of the jury event, which at the time had the working title #gmpotato Community of Inquiry, was to allow Carlow citizens to have a say on GM potato trials nearby and the introduction of GM food more generally to Ireland, and to input this back to technology policy. There were six expert ‘witnesses’ and 10 ‘jurors’. While there was a significant majority of support for GM potato trials, there was also concern for patenting and control of GM technologies in the food sector.
Engaged Research Partners
Teagasc; Carlow Citizens; Irish Organic Food Growers’ Association (IOFGA); AFRI- Action From Ireland (social justice, peace, human rights, sustainability); DCU School of Communications/ Celsius Research group; School of Applied Social Studies, UCC; AMIGA European research consortium, led by the University of Wageningen
Engagement method or activity
A citizens’ jury methodology was used, which we termed a ‘Community of Inquiry’. A random sample of the public was invited to participate in a face-to-face deliberation process with expert presenters. 12 members of the public were the ‘jurors’, while the six expert presenters were the ‘witnesses’ (only 10 appeared for the final face-to-face deliberation). Celsius, the DCU research team co-ordinating the project, facilitated and monitored points of view coming from the deliberative process itself and from traditional and online media.
Project outputs and outcomes
The outputs are as follows:
- Subject to a number of critical conditions, the Citizens Jury agreed that Teagasc could proceed with GM potato trials over the period of time under the terms of the AMIGA project, and under the EPA conditions;
- The Citizens Jury also supported the proposal that Ireland begin to explore the development and distribution of genetically modified foods and/or feed.
- The final report was submitted to EPA in Feb 2017
- Future journal publications, including Public Understanding of Science
The outcomes are as follows:
- Validation for the AMIGA projects to continue
- Pioneering test case for engaged research as a form of upstream engagement and anticipatory governance at the early stages of novel agri project field trials;
- Community discussion leading to integration of emerging technology testing in a specific geographical area- knowledge exchange for both community and for the GM trialling project on social acceptability
Longer term anticipated areas for Impact
- Policy and/or Product Development
Higher Education Institute:
Environmental Protection Agency / EU FP7
Dr Padraig Murphy (DCU)