Sunday, June 13, 2010

More food stuff I didn't know...

But probably should have.  There are GM potatoes growing in Sweden.

No kidding!
The potato, the first genetically engineered organism to be allowed in the European Union in more than a decade, was planted on 16 acres of land on the fringes of this town in southwestern Sweden, after a quarter century of bureaucratic wrangling.
Although inedible, Amflora is a kind of miracle potato on two counts: for one, there is its starch content, which makes it precious to the starch industry, a major employer in Sweden; and then there is its feisty resilience in surviving some 25 years of tests, regulations, rules, ordinances and applications for approval by both Sweden and the European Union, of which Sweden is a member.
While not grown as a food crop, the Amflora potato is giving many people in Skara, a region of rolling hills, broad lakes and small farms a bad case of indigestion.
Though genetically engineered crops like corn, cotton or soybeans are common enough in the United States, they remain a rarity in Europe, where public resistance is high. The European Union takes the position that the long-term effects of genetic engineering on the environment and on plant and animal life cannot yet be known with scientific certainty, and so urges extreme circumspection. In few places is that caution as much in evidence as in Skara. [More]
Aside from being jolted from my general assumption there were virtually no GM crops in the EU, I had never heard of GM potatoes. Mostly because they came and went here in the US.  What was most encouraging to me was the trait being used was antifungal.
About 130,000 hectares of land in the UK is used to grow potatoes, yielding in the region of 6m tonnes of potatoes each year.
However, in a typical growing season, farmers can spray fungicides on their crops up 15 times at a cost of about £500/hectare, Professor Jones said.
Therefore a late blight resistance GM potato would reduce a number of environmental impacts, including reducing the amount of chemicals being sprayed on farmland, as well as cutting emissions from using tractors to spray fungicides and from the production of the agrichemicals. [More].
Given the possible shift in precipitation patterns and looking at a wetter, warmer future, fungal resistance could be the next killer app.  With the value of glyphosate resistance and Bt becoming debatable (though still positive) in the absence of pest pressure and with growing weed resistance, ag technology companies really need another cash cow.


Paul said...

I read your blog all the time. I enjoy it but don't always agree with your views on AGW. You may already be aware of the Dalton Minimum and its implications, but if not you might want to do a search for it.

John Phipps said...


The happy thing about this dispute is we can all place our bets. I'm siding with the vast clear consensus of climatologists and managing my farm for warmer, wetter climates per the climate models. The Dalton Minimum may be a factor, but the temperature data is comprehensively persuasive to me.

Others can choose other futures as most likely. Aaron and I are proceeding as we think best for our farm for the next century. What I am not doing is making these decisions based on ideology.

Thank you for reading and commenting.