Bangladesh is the world’s seventh-largest producer of potatoes. Most of the crop is grown by small-holder farmers. To help small-holder farmers, the Feed the Future Biotechnology Potato Partnership based at Michigan State University in the US, is using the tools of biotechnology to develop a genetically engineered potato resistant to late blight disease. The Partnership will develop and bring to market a three-R gene late blight resistant potato to smallholder farmers in Bangladesh and Indonesia. By growing a disease-resistant variety, farmers will be able to reduce their use of fungicides and improve their yields, which means more money in their pockets at harvest time. Small-holder farmers anticipate better harvests with LBD-resistant potatoes. Agriculture minister Matia Chowdhury recently reaffirmed the government’s support for genetically engineered (GMO) crop technologies to ensure sufficient food for the people of Bangladesh. More
Iden Biotechnology – a Spanish biotechnology company – and J.R. Simplot Company, a potato processor and developer and marketer of Innate® GMO potatoes, recently entered into an agreement to explore the potential for nutritional enrichment of the potato. As part of the agreement, Iden will identify promising genes for potential use in Simplot’s proprietary Innate® biotechnology platform. Iden has established other industrial collaborations for gene trait discovery and development in row crops like wheat and corn. More. News release in Spanish
A genetically-modified (GM) potato designed to resist late blight has worked “brilliantly” during the first year of field trials, according to Norwich scientists. The field trial conducted by The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) on the Norwich Research Park involves incorporating three blight-resistant genes from a wild potato relative into the popular commercial variety Maris Piper. After the first year of the field trial, scientists observed a marked improvement in late blight resistance, with a stark difference in health between the resistant and non-resistant plants. Prof Jonathan Jones, who is leading the project, said the initial results offered hope that there could be a way of controlling late blight without the need for chemical fungicide sprays. More
Scientists say the first batch of locally grown genetically modified potatoes will be on sale in Ugandan retail markets in 2020. Dr Alex Barekye, the director of Kachwekano Zonal Agriculture Research Institute in the western district of Rubanda, said agricultural biotechnology research on potatoes is underway to create a genetically modified variety that will be resistant to diseases. Barekye said three trials have been conducted on the Victoria potato variety and so far, tests did not find any disease, yet the yield is high. “When we look at all the products in the GMO line and look at the duration of the crop, I think potatoes will be the first GMO crop to be commercially available in Uganda. We have conducted three trials and found that the disease is not there. The yield is good and there is nothing that has changed,” Dr. Barekye told The Observer in an interview during the World Food day celebrations in Rubanda on October 16. More
New Zealanders could soon be eating crisps and hot chips made from GE potatoes, with little idea of the added health risks from genetic engineering. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), which has just approved six new lines of GE potatoes for human consumption, has breached its duty of care to consumers, says the Soil & Health Association. Last week the Trans-Tasman food regulator released its decision approving the sale of food derived from potatoes that have been genetically engineered for disease resistance to foliar late blight, reduced blackspot bruising and reduced acrylamide potential. The potatoes are aimed at fast food outlets and the frozen chip and crisps market. “FSANZ has a legal requirement to protect the health and safety of people in Australia and New Zealand through the maintenance of a safe food supply,” says Soil & Health chair Graham Clark. “By approving these potato lines without sufficient evidence to prove that they are safe to eat, FSANZ has effectively breached this legal requirement.” More
The Council of Canadians is pressing the provincial government to keep genetically modified potatoes out of Prince Edward Island soil. Council chair Leo Broderick questions the science behind Innate generation 2 potatoes, and added that the Island. would be better off staying away from the controversy surrounding genetically modified food. Canadian officials approve Simplot’s second generation GMO potatoes last week. Broderick noted P.E.I. is already attracting attention as a producer of genetically modified salmon. “It would be foolhardy for the province to allow genetically engineered potatoes to be grown in the province,” said Broderick. “If we add genetically engineered potatoes we will have a very poor image and that’s not the kind of image that we want for the province.” Continue reading
Some farmers on Prince Edward Island are excited about a new genetically-modified potato that’s designed to resist late blight, which could mean spraying less fungicide. The CFIA and Health Canada recently approved growing the Innate generation 2 potato, developed by the U.S.-based company J.R. Simplot. Generation 1 of the potatoes were less likely to bruise or go grey when peeled, but potato farmer Ray Keenan, owner of Rollo Bay Holdings, is much more excited about this blight resistant variety. “It’s amazing science, is what it is. It’s something like we’ve never seen before in the potato industry,” said Keenan. “It’s two things. It’s a cost saving but it’s also simply good stewardship if we could find a way of making this work.” Simplot plans to sell the seed at a cost on par with conventional seed initially, and then increase the price as time goes on and farmers see the cost savings from lower pesticide use. CBC report
In a press release, the J.R. Simplot Company says Health Canada and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have completed the food, feed, and environmental safety assessments of the J.R. Simplot Company’s second generation of Innate® potatoes. The authorizations enable the potatoes to be imported, planted, and sold in Canada, complementing the three varieties of Innate® first generation potatoes that received regulatory approval last year. research shows that Innate® second generation potatoes help reduce waste associated with bruise, blight, and storage losses by reducing waste at multiple stages of the value chain. According to academic estimates, if all fresh potatoes in Canada had Innate® Generation 2 traits, potato waste (in-field, during storage, packing, retail and foodservice for fresh potatoes) “could be reduced by 93 million kilograms. In addition, CO2 emissions could be reduced by 14 million kilograms, water usage reduced by 13 billion liters, and a total of 154,000 fewer pesticide hectare-applications would be needed,” Simplot says in its press release.
Associated Press reports that three types of potatoes genetically engineered by J.R. Simplot to resist late blight are deemed safe for the environment and safe to eat, according to Canadian officials – who confirmed the approval of these potatoes on Thursday. The official approval by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency means the Simplot potatoes can be imported, planted and sold in Canada. The company said it received approval letters from Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in the last several days. Health Canada spokeswoman Renelle Briand confirmed the approvals to The Associated Press on Thursday. “We have no objection to the sale of food derived from J.R. Simplot Company’s” potatoes for human consumption, Karen McIntyre, director general of Health Canada, said in a letter sent on July 28 to the company. Canadian officials in two other letters sent on Monday approved the environmental release of planting the potatoes and using the potatoes for livestock feed. The three varieties of potato — the Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet and Atlantic — were approved by U.S. regulatory agencies in February. The company said the potatoes contain only potato genes and that the resistance to late blight comes from an Argentine variety of potato that naturally produced a defense.
This year’s Canadian acreage of J.R. Simplot’s genetically engineered Innate potato will be “very small” to non-existent, according to a company spokesperson. Kerwin Bradley, director of commercial innovation for Simplot, says the company’s marketing strategy for new varieties is based on customer polls and identification of marketing channels. “We don’t plant potatoes, or give seed to growers, until we know that there is a place for them to sell them, so how quickly that develops depends on how quickly we develop routes to market for those potatoes,” he says. “That way we ensure we keep the risk really low for everybody, especially the growers.” Any acres planted to Innate potato varieties will be in Eastern Canada, or potentially Manitoba, he says. Producers across Canada have been forewarned that growing biotech potatoes will present unique stewardship challenges. Full story by Julienne Isaacs
According to a report published today by NZFarmer.co.nz, “A United States company has applied to export genetically modified potato products into New Zealand, but mystery remains as to exactly what the products are. It is not asking to export GM potato tubers, because no tubers of any sort can come into New Zealand.” The report says that the Soil & Health Association has opposed the application, saying already a large number of genetically engineered foods are on sale in New Zealand, but consumers do not know because labelling laws mean that almost all GE ingredients do not have to be listed on the packaging. Agribusiness company JR Simplot, located in Boise, Idaho, has applied to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the organisation that controls food approvals for New Zealand and Australia, to export what it describes as “six food lines derived from potatoes”. Read report
Scientists at the James Hutton Institute and the University of St. Andrews have developed a technique to ‘engineer’ heat tolerance in potato crops, potentially providing potato breeders with a valuable tool in their quest to create varieties suited to the requirements of growers, industry and retailers. The potato crop is particularly vulnerable to increased temperature, which is considered to be the most important uncontrollable factor affecting growth and yield, according to the researchers. By comparing many different types of potato, scientists at the Institute have found a version of a gene involved in the heat stress response that is more active in potato types that can tolerant high temperature. The team went on to show that the switch that turns the protective gene on is different in the heat tolerant types. More