Crop Biotech Update

Field Trials Reveal Blight Resistant GM Potatoes

December 4, 2019

The latest stage of field trials conducted by The Sainsbury Laboratory for a genetically modified (GM) potato with improved tuber quality and resistance to the devastating disease late blight has progressed successfully. The field trials were conducted after successful lab experiments to modify Maris Piper potatoes with late blight resistance genes from Solanum americanum and S. venturii, wild relatives of potato.

To improve tuber quality, the modified Maris Piper lines also have genes switched off – or "silenced" – to reduce browning upon bruising and to avoid cold-induced sweetening, the accumulation of reducing sugars during cold storage that causes blackening when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures. The Sainsbury Laboratory was granted permission earlier this year by DEFRA to proceed with three years of field trials in controlled conditions.

"We have identified a plant that looks fine in terms of yield – comparable to wild type Maris Piper – but with all the benefits of blight resistance, reduced bruising and lower levels of reducing sugars," says Professor Jonathan Jones of The Sainsbury Laboratory. He added that the really exciting thing about this trial is that the new line also shows resistance to tuber blight – the same pathogen that causes late blight can get into tubers and rot them. This will reduce losses in storage for potato growers.

For more details, read the news release from The Sainsbury Laboratory.

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