British scientists have developed genetically modified potatoes that are resistant to the vegetable's biggest threat, blight.
A three-year trial has shown that these potatoes can thrive despite being exposed to late onset blight,
That disease has plagued farmers for generations and it triggered the Irish potato famine in the 1840s.
EU approval is needed before commercial cultivation of this GM crop can take place.
The research is published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
Potatoes are particularly vulnerable to late blight, a fungus-like organism that loves the damp and humid conditions that often occur during the growing season in
The speed with which this infection takes hold and the devastating impacts on the crop make it the number one threat to six million tons of potatoes produced in the
Farmers have to be continuously on their guard and need to spray up to 15 times a season to protect against the disease.
As part of an EU-wide investigation into the potential for biotechnology to protect crops, scientists at the John Innes Center and the
The researchers added a gene to Desiree potatoes, from a wild South American relative, that helps the plant turn on its natural defenses to fight off blight.
The scientists involved say that the use of techniques to add extra genes was crucial in developing a plant resistant to the blight.
"Breeding from wild relatives is laborious and slow, and by the time a gene is successfully introduced into a cultivated variety, the late blight pathogen may already have evolved the ability to overcome it," said Prof
"And I think it is better to control disease with genetics than with chemistry."
In 2012, the third year of the trial, all the non-GM potatoes became infected with late blight by August while the modified vegetables remained fully resistant to the end of the experiment.
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