The Swiss Federal Office for the Environment has given permission for scientists to carry out crop trials involving genetically modified (GM) potatoes which are resistant to late blight at a site at Reckenholz near Zurich.
The Agroscope research centre will be able to start planting the potatoes from late at the end of April and the field experiments should run until 2019 at the latest.
Initially crops will be planted in a 10m x 20m area, which will be extended next year. The risk that GM pollen may spread is much lower among potatoes than for other species, said scientists at Agroscope. The field will still be protected by security guards, fences and cameras after activists destroyed a GM wheat crop being tested at the Zurich site in 2008.
Environmental NGO Greenpeace has publicly criticised the project, saying, “Every centime invested in the development of GM food is a badly invested centime.”
Anti-GM group Coordination Stop OGM added, “Limited research funds shouldn’t be invested in trials that offer no solution for Switzerland.”
The scientists aim to develop potatoes that are resistant to blight, and Dutch researchers have already successfully tested similar potatoes.