SECB Statement on experimental releases of genetically modified potato strains with improved potato late blight resistance

The SECB has issued a Statement on these field trials. It has concluded unanimously that the experimental release applied for poses a negligible risk to humans and the environment, and can therefore be approved.

The genetically modified potato strains contain various resistance genes that confer improved resistance to late blight. The experimental release will be carried out in 2015–2019 on the Protected Site at Agroscope ART Reckenholz.

Late blight is an effect of the oomycete Phytophthora infestans, which causes high control costs and significant damage to potato crops in Switzerland. The genetically modified potato strains contain one or more Rpi resistance genes from wild potatoes (Rpi = resistance against Phytophthora infestans), which are under the control of their native promoters and terminators.

Various safety measures are planned for the field trials. In addition to the protection ensured by the Protected Site, safety measure include the control of second-growth tubers and seeds, and an isolation distance of 30 m from the nearest potato field.

Investigations will clarify whether the Rpi genes are also effective against Swiss isolates of P. infestans. The agronomic properties of the potato strains will also be analysed. Potato strains that contain more than one resistance gene will be examined to see whether this is disadvantageous to the plant, for example by reducing the size of harvest or quality of potato.

In its Statement, the SECB made particular note of the perennation of seeds and berries, gene expression, and the clearance from the nearest potato fields. It concluded that the planned field trial poses a negligible risk to humans and the environment, and approved it unanimously.

SECB Statement of 28 January 2015 (in German)

The applications were published on 25 November 2014 in the Federal Law Gazette and approved, with various conditions, by decree from the Federal Office for the Environment on 21 April 2015.

Information from the FOEN on application B/CH/14/01

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Last edition: 04.01.2021