DUBLIN, Ireland — Monsanto Co. is planning five field trials of genetically modified sugar beets in Ireland this spring, up from a single trial it carried out last year at a government research facility.

The company has not had an easy time introducing its technology to Ireland. Its first trial initially was halted by a court injunction, which was overturned. Then the trial was destroyed later in the year in a high-profile act of sabotage. The Irish EPA's decision to grant the company permission to carry out field trials is the subject of a judicial review, which is due to be heard shortly.

St. Louis-based Monsanto's country manager in Ireland, Patrick O'Reilly, told BioWorld International its schedule for introducing its Round-Up Ready sugar beets on a commercial basis is still on track for either 2002 or the year after. The current controversy is not causing the company any problems, he said.

"If there was a destruction of all trials this year, that obviously would be a problem," he said. Yet the company does not plan to establish any particular security arrangements to ensure that this year's trials will not be damaged.

"We hope that logic will prevail and there will be an open and public debate on this thing, without any criminal acts," O'Reilly said. — Cormac Sheridan