A protest against GMO potatoes. (Photo by BASFPlantScience.)

Last week’s announcement that Ireland’s environmental protection agency approved the nation’s first trial of the genetically modified potato has reactivated the conversation about the spuds, which have actually been kicking around Europe — on a trial basis — since 2010.

Potatoes are an industrial crop; we grow nearly as many of them worldwide as we do corn, soy, wheat, and sugar, and those industries all rely heavily on genetic engineering. And — like corn, sugar, and soy — potato starch is now often valued for its indirect uses, such as in animal feed and biofuel. So it’s not surprising that industry forces would be pushing for giant swaths of industrial-starch-producing GMO potatoes. But to do so in Ireland would involve a unique historical irony.