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Consent sought to release GM potatoes for UK trials work on blight

The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, has applied to Defra for consent to release genetically modified potatoes for trials work.


Marianne   Curtis

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Marianne   Curtis
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According to a document submitted by the applicant and published on the Defra website, entitled ‘Part B Information about the release application to be included on the public register’, the potato plants have been genetically modified to improve different traits including resistance to Phytophthora infestans, the organism responsible for late blight; resistance to potato cyst nematodes (PCN); and improved tuber quality.

 

The application says that the plants are planned to be released at two locations. The first is Rothamsted Research, Brooms Barn, Hertfordshire, where the field trial is intended to start in June 2019 and continue until November 30, 2019. The second is a NIAB trial site in Cambridge. The experiments are intended to continue in 2020 and 2021, with plantings at the first and second locations from April 1 until November 30 in both years.

 

Since 2001, The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich says it has been working towards identifying, mapping and isolating resistance genes from potato that confer resistance against potato late blight.


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Main goals

 

According to the application, the main goals of the proposed release are:

  • to further demonstrate that the transferred late blight resistance genes offer a valuable method for controlling late blight of potatoes which does not rely on agricultural inputs (pesticides).
  • to expose plants containing the newly identified genes to the local populations of late blight to confirm that they are useful and capable of conferring resistance in different geographical locations.
  • to assess the agronomic performance and yield of the modified plants in comparison to wild-type Maris Piper plants subjected to standard fungicide sprays.
  • to harvest tubers for detailed assessment of potential for browning and cold induced sweetening, as well as other relevant characteristics such as dry matter.

Even though some of the plants carry genes related to nematode resistance, this trait is said not to be within the scope of the proposed trial.

 

Defra is inviting representations on any risks of damage being caused to the environment by the release applied for in the application, which must be received by April 22, 2019.

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