The so-called ‘Frankentstein potato’ is the centre of new controversy over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the European Union.
The first decision by a new line-up of European Commissioners is the first GM cultivation authorisation in the bloc for 12 years, though the vegetable is not for human consumption, rather it’s super-starched for paper production.
The Amflora spud contains antibiotic-resistance genes, and critics have long argued that they might be passed to bacteria, creating tougher bacteria.
Marco Contiero, with Greenpeace, said: “Greenpeace is against the potato, especially because putting at risk the health of humans, animals and the environment, because of this antibiotic resistant gene included in the potato is totally useless. There are already in the market conventionally bred non-GMO potato with the same increased starch content as the BASF potato that can be used without putting at risk anybody.”
Biotech industry experts point out these tag-along antibiotic resistance genes just serve to recognise where a new gene with target characteristics has taken hold in plant cells.
Willy De Greef, with EuropaBio, said: “Well, there is a lot of confusion about it. The npt-II gene, which is the antibiotic resistance genethat is in there, only gives resistance to very old classes of antibiotics that are of no significant human use any more. In fact, that particular antibiotics gene you would find in any piece of soil we would dig up here in this garden.”
The top chemical maker Germany’s BASF said it expects Amflora to earn it twenty-to-thirty million euros per season. Organic and conventional producers fear higher costs keeping food production chains free of GMOs.