An official announcement about field trials on new genetically modified potatoes have been delayed until after the General Election because of the sensitivity of the issue, according to newspaper reports.
Professor Jonathan Jones of the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich has confirmed some details of the proposal for a new GM potato which aims to be better for the environment, reduce production costs, reduce waste and also be healthier.
However, he denied that the research had been delayed for political reasons. “This is untrue. We have always been open about our GM research, we make sure that we engage with the public about it, and we will continue to do so,” he wrote.
The grant to carry out the project has just been agreed but it is still early in the funding award process, with Professor Jones suggesting research will not start until later in the year, probably October.
“My group at The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) has been working on blight resistance genes for a number of years,” he added. “The University of Leeds has been researching genes to confer nematode-resistance and Simplot has recently had FDA approval in the US for its Innate Potato, which has a reduced susceptibility to bruising and reduced ability to form acrylamide when cooked at high temperatures. Acrylamide is found in many foods, including bread, cakes and coffee, and has been linked to cancer formation.
“If we could take all these genes, if we could introduce them all into one potato, we could have a spud with reduced chemical impact on the environment, less waste, while also having lower levels of acrylamide when cooked and the associated health benefits.”