Researchers: ‘Organic farming should embrace blight–resistant genetically engineered potato’

According to researchers Godelieve Gheysen and René Custers in Belgium, the EU regulation on organic farming does not allow the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). “Why obstruct a cisgenic potato crop that can hardly be distinguished from a potato crop that is the result of conventional breeding?,” the scientists ask in a recently published research paper. “Among the reasons why organic agriculture does not allow the use of GMOs it is mentioned that genetic engineering is unpredictable, it causes genome disruption and it is unnatural. However, our knowledge of plant genome evolution and breeding has increased dramatically,” they say. According to Gheysen and Custers, we now know that breeding is more unpredictable and causes more genome disruption than genetic engineering. Recent field trials have shown the efficacy of cisgenic late blight–resistant potatoes carrying multiple resistance genes. Large-scale growing of such durably resistant potatoes would not only be environmentally beneficial by strongly reducing the need for fungicide sprays in conventional potato cultivation – it would also reduce the disease pressure in organic potato cultivation. Genetic Literacy Project report. Research paper as published in the Journal Sustainability