Argentine authorities have officially approved the commercialization of a genetically modified PVY-resistant potato variety. The transgenic potato, named TIC-AR233-5, will help growers avoid losses from the virus. The virus can result in yield declines of up to 70%, according to Argentina-based Tecnoplant, which holds the marketing license. The potato will also help growers to use fewer agrochemicals in its cultivation, the company said. The Health and Agri-Food Quality National Service, Senasa, said the product complies with all the necessary requirements, according to La Nación. According to Andrés Murchison, Secretary for Food and Bioeconomy, the new potato could help growers to reduce handling costs and could also boost the quality of the final product. It is expected that regulatory processes for other GMO crops will continue to be optimized in the future, said Murchinson. Read more. Report by Technoplant in Spanish.
J.R. Simplot Company, based in Idaho in the US, announced that it has acquired gene editing licensing rights that could one day be used to help farmers produce more crops and make grocery store offerings such as strawberries, potatoes and avocados stay fresher longer. J.R. Simplot Company on Monday announced the agreement with DowDuPont Inc. and the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, developers of the nascent gene editing technology. Simplot is the first agricultural company to receive such a license. “We think this is a transformative technology — it’s very powerful,” said Issi Rozen, chief business officer of the Broad Institute. “We’re delighted that Simplot is the first one to take advantage of the licensing.” Continue reading
Steven Salzberg European Union court just issued a new decision about GMOs. Disappointingly, this decision is likely to further confuse rather than clarify this complex and contentious issue. The court announced that plants whose genomes have been modified with CRISPR technology, a very precise form of genome editing, are subject to the EU’s very strict restrictions on genetically modified crops. More specifically, the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) decided that: “Organisms obtained by mutagenesis are GMOs and are, in principle, subject to the obligations laid down by the GMO Directive.” Salzberg points out that if we take this literally, then here’s a list of all the foods that have never been subjected to mutagenesis, and are therefore not GMO: Salt, wild boar, wild blueberries. So they carved out an exception: “…varieties [of plants] obtained by means of mutagenesis techniques which have conventionally been used in a number of applications and have a long safety record are exempt….” Which means, Salzberg says, that virtually all of the GMO crops in the U.S. are exempt. Read full Forbes report. Also read a report by Spudman magazine on this issue.
Victoria is a popular local potato variety in Uganda. Farmers love it because it is high yielding. However, Victoria is also extremely susceptible to potato late blight disease. With each growing season, these farmers face a threat of 60 to 100 percent yield losses due to Late Blight. Climate related risks have worsened the situation leading to increasingly food insecure households. However, all is not lost. Researchers from the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) in Uganda, working closely with the International Potato Center (CIP), are about to complete multi-location field trials and laboratory analyses of an improved transgenic Victoria potato. These trials are part of a comprehensive risk assessment of the improved potato, to get it approved by Uganda’s National Biosafety Committee. Field trials of the improved Victoria variety have shown complete resistance to late blight disease without use of fungicides. Read more
German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer said Thursday its two-year pursuit of US-based Monsanto over, as the two firms signed off a $63-billion merger deal. “Shares in the US company will no longer be traded on the New York Stock Exchange, with Bayer now the sole owner of Monsanto Company,” the German firm said in a statement. In an industry preparing for a global population surge with billions more mouths to feed, Bayer was keen to get its hands on Monsanto’s market-leading line in GM crop seeds designed to resist strong pesticides. It was also lured by Monsanto’s data analytics business Climate Corp, believing farmers will in future rely on digital monitoring of their crops. Continue reading
Researchers with Teagasc in Ireland have concluded their field study which investigated both the environmental and agronomic impact of a GM potato variety genetically engineered to resist late blight disease, caused by Phytophthora infestans. Potato late blight can rapidly destroy potato crops with growers commonly having to resort to spraying their crops with fungicides on a near weekly basis. Teagasc research indicates that combining a cisgenic blight resistant potato with advanced Integrated management systems can reduce the environmental impact of potato production by over 95%. As part of the EU funded ‘AMIGA’ project and in collaboration with Wageningen University, Teagasc looked at issues such as the efficacy of disease control and the resulting environmental impact during cultivation of a susceptible potato variety (Désirée) and two different resistant potato varieties: Sarpo Mira, developed through conventional breeding, and a resistant version of the Désirée which received a resistance gene from a wild potato through cisgenesis. Read more
Researchers in Ireland and the Netherlands have discovered that a genetically engineered potato carrying a blight resistance gene could help farmers reduce fungicide sprays by up to 90 percent. Scientists from Wageningen University in the Netherlands and Teagasc, the Irish agricultural research agency, conducted three years of field tests in the two countries to examine the effectiveness of potato genes aiming to confer resistance to Phytophthora infestans. In modern agriculture, late blight is kept in check via a regime of fungicide sprays, with farmers sometimes having to spray their potato crops as often as once a week during bad blight years. A blight-resistant commercial potato variety — Desiree was the variety chosen for the trials — would therefore help to reduce the environmental burden of agro-chemical sprays, as well as costs to farmers. Despite the potential for environmental benefits, anti-GMO activists have tried to stop trials in both countries. More
Researchers of the INTA [Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria], Balcarce, have edited the genome that causes enzymatic browning in potatoes, alters the nutritional properties and quality of the tubers. “We verified that we are capable of generating, within a potato cell, a gene editing machinery that specifically targets the chosen gene and changes its genetic sequence,” explained Sergio Feingold, director of the INTA’s Agrobiotechnology Laboratory. “The technique used was gene editing.” The technology used is also known as “gene scissors” or CRISPR/Cas9. When applying this technique, the team led by Feingold focused on a polyphenol oxidase gene, whose enzyme causes browning in tubers when they are cut and exposed to air. More
A genetically modified potato variety designed to resist the devastating disease blight, enabled fungicide use to be cut by 80-90% in trials, without compromising efficacy or yield. Research company Teagasc has concluded that combining GM technology with an integrated approach to disease control can dramatically cut the overall environmental impact of potato growing. Irish researchers spent the past three years comparing one susceptible variety (Desiree) with two different resistant potato varieties. These are Sarpo Mira, developed through conventional breeding, and a version of Desiree, which received a resistance gene from a wild potato. This work is part of the EU funded “AMIGA” project and was carried out in collaboration with Wageningen University in the Netherlands. More
Consumer confidence in government regulations around biotechnology is improving, according to CropLife Canada polling in the country. “We’re finding the attitudes of Canadians about biotechnology is really getting better,” says Dennis Prouse, vice president, government affairs, CropLife Canada. “Our actual research finds that Canadian attitudes have taken a good jump forward, and I think that’s largely due to the unblemished safety record biotech has.” The same question surrounding “pesticides” and “pest control products,” however, saw different results. “[Pest control products haven’t] shown the big jump that biotech has — obviously, the fear of chemicals is out there…it’s going to be a tougher hill to climb.” says Prouse. Prouse says the measurement of media showing negative stories on these subjects has dropped though. More
Seed and chemical giants Bayer and Monsanto said Wednesday that they will merge to become one of the world’s biggest agriculture giants, a $66 billion mega-deal that could reshape the future of farming and enhance their influence over the planet’s food supply. Bayer said it will spearhead the largest all-cash buyout in history in hopes of taking over St. Louis-based Monsanto, the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified seeds. The merger marks one of the most prominent signs yet of the broadening acceptance of genetically modified foods. The deal would also further strengthen the companies’ grips on vital seeds, pesticides and farm technologies, a concerning turn that critics said could raise prices, reduce choice and stifle innovations needed to feed a growing world. More
Researchers from the U.S., Indonesia and Bangladesh is creating a genetically-engineered potato to fight the late blight. The disease remains an issue for farmers worldwide, especially in Bangladesh, where many struggle with hunger. “Late blight is the number one constraint for potato production, and Bangladesh has a perfect environment for this disease,” said Jim Bradeen, co-director of the University’s Stakman-Borlaug Center and a scientific advisor for the project. The United States Agency for International Development’s Feed the Future partnership, led by Michigan State University, is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota and the University of Idaho, along with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute and the J.R. Simplot Company. The researchers are working to implement durable disease resistance in potatoes using three disease-resistant genes, Bradeen said. Since the pathogen that causes late blight disease can evolve and become resistant to the genes designed to protect the crop, researchers hope using three genes will be an adequate defense. They hope to introduce the potato in Bangladesh in the next six months to a year. More
Sufferers of malnutrition in the global south could soon find help from an unlikely source: a humble potato, genetically tweaked to provide substantial doses of vitamins A and E, both crucial nutrients for health. Dubbed the “golden potato,” boosted levels of provitamin A carotenoids are converted into vitamin A by digestive enzymes when eaten. The potato was genetically engineered in Italy using a technique called biofortification. It was created in a lab in Italy and studied at Ohio State University, is the most recent staple crop to be genetically transformed into a colorful superfood, joining such creations as antioxidant-rich purple rice and beta-carotene-enhanced golden rice. Continue reading
It’s taken almost 30 years, but Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientists have finally won a monumental battle against the Colorado potato beetle (CPB). Dr. Benoit Bizimungu and Agnes Murphy, potato breeding research scientists at the Fredericton Research and Development Centre, recently developed two selections that are resistant to the major insect pest. Both varieties are available for industry to use in other trials as part of an accelerated potato variety release program. The new resistant varieties were developed as a team effort. Research scientist Dr. Helen Tai is part of the team. While she played an important role in the process, Tai said, “I stand on the shoulder of giants.” Tai stressed that traditional methods were used in all the breeding programs. “There are no GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in the potato breeding program at AAFC,” Tai says. She said the new varieties can be used in conjunction with integrated pest management. More
In a scientific study published this month in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, a research team at Montana State University examines the farm management decision of whether to adopt a new, genetically engineered potato variety, in particular three GMO Innate varieties developed by Simplot and approved for commercial use by the USDA in March 2017. The researchers note that the new varieties have potential human health benefits over other potato varieties, resist browning and bruising, and also resist late blight. If these new potato varieties are adopted, they would represent one of the first GE crops primarily consumed in a low-processed form in the United States. Currently, most GE crops such as alfalfa, corn, soybeans, and sugar beets are either highly processed into final consumer products or fed to livestock. In their paper, the scientists describe the potato industry with a particular reference to seed potatoes and discusses issues surrounding GE potato varieties. The case is built around a leading seed potato operation in Montana, Kimm Brothers Farming. More