Scientific field trial with GM late blight-resistant potatoes started in Belgium
May. 19, 2011
Late blight is the biggest threat to potato cultivation in our region. The disease costs Belgian farmers an estimated 55 million euros per year. These costs are the result of having to apply pesticides and of harvest and storage losses.
The development and cultivation of resistant varieties is the best way to counter the disease. Conventional breeding efforts over several decades have only led to very few resistant varieties. Most of them only contain one functional resistance factor, of which it is known that there already are Phytophthora-isolates that have overcome that one resistance factor. The introduction of another resistance factor would again take several decades.
That is why today also GM resistant lines are being developed. Genetic engineering allows to introduce multiple resistance factors in one step, without losing the variety properties. The GM technology makes use of the same natural resistance factors as are introduced through classical breeding. Only the way they are introduced differs.
Multiple resistances are much more sustainable than single resistances. If the chances that a single resistance factor is broken is 1 in a 1000, then that chance with a double resistance is only 1 in a 1000 x 1000, and for a triple resistance 1 in a 1000 x 1000 x 1000. The chance that the resistance will be broken therefor exponentially drops.
The scientific field trial
In the scientific field trial that has now been started 27 different GM lines will be tested. Twenty-six thereof are stemming from Wageningen University & Research Center, and one from BASF Plant Science. The have one to three resistance genes. Their resistance will be compared with important non-resistant varieties such as Bintje and Agria, but also with the resistant varieties Bionica and Sarpo Mira that are used in organic agriculture.
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