Last week the European Commission approved cultivation and
processing of the genetically modified starch potato Amflora.
The request for authorisation was submitted by Amflora's
developer BASF in August 1996, more than 13 years ago!
The scope of the application included cultivation,
industrial use and the use of pulp as feed.
Amflora is a starch potato developed by BASF
for the production of specialty starch. Potato starch
consists of two types of starch with very different
properties: amylose and amylopectin. Instead of the
regular 20/80 amylose-/amylopectin mixture in a typical
potato, Amflora has been genetically modified to
contain only amylopectin. This gives the starch superior
properties for a variety of technical applications such
as making glossy paper, binding concrete.
the first GM crop approved by the EC in 12 years and
as such it is a major milestone on a continent that has
always strongly opposed GM crops.
The fact that Europe's newly approved GM crop is a potato
for industrial starch production rather than food may make
this reversal easier to digest: for now, the end product is
more likely to be found in your glossy printing paper than
on your dining table. And attachment to food is quite
different from our emotional involvement with printing
paper. Eventually, BASF wants to use Amflora's starch in
food as well and has submitted an application to do so.
On the other hand the approval of Amflora is controversial,
since the potato contains a resistance gene against an
antibiotic, used in the selection of potato plants that
successfully express the inserted genetic construct. It's an
outdated technique, but we shouldn't forget that Amflora's
application dates back 13 year! Nevertheless, the
(European Food Safety Authority) has repeatedly judged the
product as safe.
Since waste (pulp) of potato starch production is frequently
used as feed, such use was included in the application and
approved by the EC. BASF has stated that they plan to use
Amflora's waste in biofuel production. A wise choice from a
PR point of view, given the fact that the approval of GMO in
Europe is definitely a "hot potato".
Anyhow, European's will get some time to get used to the
idea of a GM crop since the approval of Amflora is too late
for widespread use of Amflora for the 2010 crop.
In North America, currently no genetically modified potatoes
are commercially grown. But the GM potato has already a
colorful history in the US and Canada:
Between 1996 and 2001 Monsanto introduced a range of GM
potatoes with resistances against Colorado beetle and PVY
virus (Newleaf/Naturemark). Farmers started to grow these potatoes,
but the acreage never exceeded 2-3 % of the total potato
crop. Major companies such as McDonald's, Wendy's and
Frito-Lay refused to use GM potatoes, primarily due to
consumer skepticism regarding the unknown environmental and
health consequences of GM foods. In 2000 McCain declared to
stop processing GM potatoes and other french fry
manufacturers followed. Also, US Potato Dehy manufacturers
ran into trouble with export to Japan. Since Japan does not
accept GM foods, a range of snack foods were recalled after
it was found that dehydrated potato products contained GM
In March 2001,
Monsanto took the Newleaf potato varieties off the market
and since focused on wheat, corn, soybean and cotton. Now,
over 90% of the soybean and over 60 % of the corn grown in
the US is genetically modified.
Food companies are still very sensible to the opinion of
their customer on GM crops. During discussion on the
introduction of a potato moth resistant GM potato in South
Africa in 2008,
both McDonald's and McCain Foods formally opposed the
introduction. The South Africa
application was declined in 2009.So will we see GM potatoes again in North America
According to statements last October by John Keeling,
executive vice president and CEO of the National Potato Council,
4 or 5 companies in the US are working on GM potato
varieties, but none of these varieties are ready for
commercial release, nor have gone through formal regulatory
approval. But the US potato industry is working to make the
reintroduction of genetically modified potatoes successful: e.g Keeling mentioned the National Potato Council was
planning a task force to determine the best way of
reintroduction of genetically modified potatoes without
disturbing the market place.
Simplot is one of the US potato processing companies that
has strategically invested in GM potatoes. Based on Simplot
Plant Sciences publications and presentations, the company
seems to have the right ideas to get consumers to buy into
- Potatoes with benefits for CONSUMERS
instead of just for farmers. Think of
enhancement of healthy ingredients,
reduction of acrylamide, low sugar content
(nice golden color) and no
discoloration/black spots (PPO suppression).
- Simplot is working towards GM potatoes
that do not contain foreign DNA. In its
extreme form, this basically eliminates the
difference between a potato obtained by
regular breeding and genetic modification.
If that is combined with clear information for consumers
as well as choice (segregation in the chain - instead of
"contaminating" the regular chain past the point of no
return) such products might very well be accepted by a
majority of the consumers.
In the end, genetic modification is just a technology and
- as with so many technologies - HOW the technology is used
determines it's acceptability.
Paul van Eijck
----->More on Potatoes and GMO<-----
First of all I want to thank everyone who stopped by at
our booth at the
International Potato Expo in Prince Edward
Island. It made it a very enjoyable and successful show!
Note that the
Indian International Potato Expo has been
rescheduled for July 8 and 9, 2010 .
The potato hotbox is the ideal tool to achieve overnight
assessment of potato bruising.
The hotbox allows evaluation of the quality ahead of time and
provides support in decisions on what lots need to be processed
right away and what lots can be stored. The Hotbox is also ideal
for blackspot susceptibility testing.
The Hot Box indicates bruise levels after just 12 hours.
It has an integral heavy duty fan, thermostatically controlled
heater, water reservoir and timer. Separate trays allow periodic
sampling throughout the work period. Different models are available
to suit different size operations.
Get ready for next season NOW and benefit of favorable
French Fries and Potato Specialties
Chips and Snacks
Dehydrated Potato Products
Other Potato Products
Ingredients for Potato Processing
Potato Supply Chain
Health and Nutrition
Energy and Environment