Government must reject GM spud trials / Interesting comments on GM spud trials (23/8/2006)


Friends of the Earth Press Release
Immediate release: Wednesday 23 August 2006

The Government should reject plans to grow experimental trials of GM potatoes at two locations in England, Friends of the Earth said today. The environmental campaign group warned that if the trials went ahead they could contaminate the food chain.

Genetically modified (GM) potatoes could be grown experimentally in the UK as early as 2007. Biotech company BASF has announced today (Wednesday) that it is applying to conduct two field trials of the GM potatoes in Derbyshire and Cambridge.

BASF was granted permission to trial the GM blight-resistant potatoes in Ireland earlier this year, but after strong public opposition and strict conditions were imposed by Ireland's Environmental Protection Agency, BASF abandoned the trials [1].

It has recently been disclosed that experimental field trials of GM rice in the USA have contaminated food supplies, which could have been exported all over the world [2].

Friends of the Earth is concerned that any GM potatoes left in the ground after the experiment could contaminate future crops, and strict rules would be needed to ensure that the GM potatoes cannot enter the food chain.

The UK Government is currently holding a public consultation to determine what rules will be needed to grow GM crops commercially in England [3]. It is not proposing any separation distances for potatoes and any measures to prevent GM contamination will be left to a voluntary code of practice. Friends of the Earth is urging people to respond to the Government's consultation at

Friends of the Earth's GM Campaigner Liz Wright said:

"Consumers in the UK and Europe have made it clear that they do not want to eat GM food. Rather than wasting money on GM crops that will have no market in Europe, the industry should be looking for more sustainable ways to solve problems in farming."

"The US rice contamination scandal, where an experimental crop not approved for human consumption was able to contaminate food supplies, shows that the biotech industry cannot be trusted to keep their experimental GM crops out of our food. The Government must reject this application and prevent any GM crops from being grown in the UK until it can guarantee that they won't contaminate our food, farming and environment."

There will be an opportunity for public comment when the application is considered by the Government.






[email protected]

I note that the application is to 'conduct two field trials of GM potatoes, modified with genes to resist late blight, the fungus that devastated Ireland's potato crop in the famine of the 1840s.' So clearly the Irish would be wholeheartedly in favour of such a project??

NOT SO... according to what happened earlier this year(below) and on the GM Free Ireland website:

It actually beggars belief that having been drummed out of Ireland, BASF has the temerity to try it in the UK... and as for:

'The application represents a testing of the water by multinational biotechnology companies'

perhaps they might find the water rather hot...

From: Robt Mann [email protected]

"Potatoes are sprayed about 15 times a season to protect them against late blight. GM potatoes would need spraying only a couple of times"

My wife & I grow several varieties of potato, in a rather humid climate, with no sprays.

Keep in mind that the gene-jiggerers have a habit of exaggerating the amount of spraying on non-GM crops, in order to increase their claims of future decreased spraying if their brainmonsters work out. Similarly, the awful Tony Conner claims some of his GM-potatoes (with modified versions of toxins from African clawed toad) will be resistant to bacterial soft rot. But potatoes grown & stored competently in New Zealand don't get soft rot.

So the pattern is: exaggerate the current problem, in order to exaggerate the value of the dreamed-of cure by gene-jiggering.

Cure, did I say? What about the admitted 'couple of' sprayings that they say will still be needed?


From: Robert Vint

And such claims for reduced pesticide use usually prove to be extreme exaggerations - especially after the crop has been grown for a few years.


From Tom Rigby [email protected]

Quite right and this will be particularly true for blight.


"Blight strains are now more variable than they were a decade ago. They change more quickly and even the most blight resistant types can become susceptible. The blight fungus needs high humidity and high temperatures day and night to thrive.

Previously blight only reproduced asexually. It still managed to evolve enough to overcome blight resistance in some new varieties within a few years. Now there is a second breeding type which arrived in Europe in some imported potatoes - and it now reproduces sexually, too. This has increased the speed at which it can overcome blight resistance; sexual reproduction gives more diversity.

In his book "A Scottish Potato Breeder's Harvest", Jack Dunnett sums up the blight situation like this: "Phytophthera Infestans produces astronomical numbers or airborne spores, only one of which needs to mutate to initiate an epidemic due to a new resistance-breaking race, which has happened time after time and still happens."

"Within two years of the first observed breakdown of resistance, all the British crops of Pentland Dell, which incorporated a stack of three different major resistance genes, were blighted....after that, at Pentlandfield where Pentland Dell was bred, we gave up, but others persisted, in a triumph of optimism over experience".

From Robert Vint

If you want to protest about BASF's GM potato plans you could lobby the British Potato Council - the main promoter of the UK potato industry - and maybe threaten to avoid buying all UK or Derbyshire potatoes if trials go ahead.


British Potato Council
4300 Nash Court
John Smith Drive
Oxford Business Park
Tel: 01865 714455
Fax: 01865 782231

British Potato Council
Scottish Office
Rural Centre
West Mains, Newbridge
EH28 8NZ
Tel: 01314 724064
Fax: 01314 724065

Sutton Bridge:
British Potato Council
Sutton Bridge Experimental Unit
East Bank
Sutton Bridge
PE12 9YD
Tel: 01406 351444
Fax: 01406 351125

Export and Seed
Iain Dykes
(Supply Chain Manager, Edinburgh)
T: 0131 472 4062
F: 0131 472 4065

Fresh/pre-pack and Processing
Phil Bradshaw
(Supply Chain Manager, Oxford)
T: 07776 492274
F: 01865 782283

Research/Knowledge Transfer
Steve Gerrish
(Information Resources Manager, Oxford)
T: 01865 782270
F: 01865 782283

Area Monitoring & Yield Surveys
1.Terry Hunt
(Field Officer, Oxford)
T: 01787 478173
F: 01787 478173
2.Mark Colmer
(Field Officer, Oxford)
T: 01480 812855
F: 01480 812855


Back to the Archive