GM spuds to be commercialized in 2007

The first commercial crop of genetically modified potatoes will be planted in 2007. Industry bods and green campaigners alike agree that EU approval of BASF's Amflora potatoes will come in time for spring launch and cultivation, reports Marina Murphy in Chemistry & Industry, the magazine of the SCI.

Amflora potatoes, which have been modified to be particularly suited for the production of papers and adhesive, are not intended for human consumption. In contrast to conventional potatoes, they contain only amylopectin, as opposed to both amylopectin and amylose starches.

'This is the first potato of its kind' according to Thorston Storck, global project manager at BASF Plant Sciences. 'We have tested these potatoes over 10 years…And at this stage, we are optimistic of getting permission to grow and sell these potatoes in time for planting next year,' he said.

Claire Oxborrow, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth, agreed that approval in time for spring planting was likely. Even without a qualified majority on Monday (December 4th) by the regulatory committee, she said the potatoes would ultimately be approved. But Oxborrow also expressed concerns that Amflora potatoes could find their way into the food supply, especially given that a separate application by BASF for food and feeding is not far behind this one. She said that safety should be a concern because rat feeding studies showed statistically significant differences in white blood cells and spleen weight between female animals fed the transgenic potato and those given a diet containing the parental cultivar.

'These differences should be thoroughly investigated to ensure that they will not lead to human health impacts,' she said.

Currently there are six countries in the EU where GM crops are grown commercially: Romania, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic. They all grow GM maize except Romania, which grows GM soya.

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