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Shaping the Future of GMO Research

Stakeholder with interests in the risk and/or benefit assessment of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) are invited to take part in an online survey.

The aim of this survey is to identify which research needs should be prioritised, thereby contributing to the commissioning of research on the health, environment and economic impacts of GMOs.

The survey will close on 15th July 2015.

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Research Fungal resistance, modified starch composition
Field trials EU 293
USA 831, in other countries


USA, Canada, five other countries

Cultivation 1999-2001 USA, Canada, Romania
Traits Insect and virus resistance
Perspectives Cultivation of GM starch potatoes in the EU since 2010; no exploitation as foodstuff. Commercial utilisation of GM potatoes is expected in Indonesia in the medium term.



Potatoes are grown worldwide in regions with moderate to subtropical climates. In 2005, altogether 322 millions tons of potatoes were harvested in 157 countries. Over half of the world's production was produced by China, Russia, India, Ukraine, the USA, Germany and Poland.



In Germany over half of the potato harvest lands directly or processed on the table; only about 5% are used as animal feed, and approximately one third is utilised in the starch industry.

Foodstuffs and ingredients

The consummation of potatoes in Germany has a long tradition. Around 1900 every German was reckoned to eat on average 285 kg per year; today this is now only just under 70 kg per year. Of this about 45% is in the form of industrially prepared products:

  • purée,chips, snacks and convenience food.

  • potato starch is the basis of numerous food components (thickening and binding agent) and is the basic material for the process producing sugar from starch, from which many ingredients and supplements emerge.

Renewable primary products, energy crops

  • 40% of the starch is processed in the non-food area:
    in particular in adhesives and lubricants, in paper and corrugated paper production, as packaging and as building materials.
  • Potato starch can be used to produce energy through conversion to ethanol and methane.


Gene technology: aims of research and development

Agronomic traits

Resistance against pathogens

  • Fungal resistance: e.g. against the pathogen causing potato late blight (Phytophtora infestans), which effects leaves, stems and tubers. This fungus causes harvest losses of around 20% and is very difficult to combat. Usually chemical and other fungicides are employed.

Resistance to pests

  • Insect resistance: e.g. against the Colorado potato beetle, through transfer of genes for Bt toxins or through plant repellents such as lectins.

Weed control

Adaptation to climate and location factors

  • Drought and cold resistance

  • Salt tolerance

Quality traits

Modified composition of components

  • Carbohydrate metabolism: modification of the starch or sugar composition of potatoes to influence the taste, to reduce the brown blotchiness or to improve the browning effect on frying or roasting.

  • Indian researchers developed a genetically modified potato with tubers that contain up to 60 percent more protein and increased levels of amino acids. They inserted a gene from amaranth to the potato.

Enrichment with health-promoting components such as:

  • beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A

Renewable primary products

Modified composition of ingredients

  • Potatoes form starchin two different forms: amylose and amylopectin. The starch industry requires either amyloseor amylopectin depending on the application. Amylopectin is particularly of interest for many industrial processes (e.g. basic material for foils, paste, packaging), but also for certain starch ingredients. Using gene technology, potatoes can be established that exclusively contain amylopectin (or amylose). The separation of these two types of starch, which at present is carried out in complex processes, would no longer be necessary.

  • Genetically modified plants produce Cyanophycin, which can be used to synthesise the biodegradable plastic poly-aspartate. Cyanophycin, a storage protein is naturally produced by Cyanobacteria.

Production of pharmaceutically active substances

  • Molecular pharming: utilisation of gene-modified potatoes as a system for producing active pharmaceutical ingredients such as vaccines has up to now only been carried out in research.

Basis research

  • The Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Physiology of Plants in Golm is undertaking research on potatoes with a modified stomatal density. In plants gas exchange takes place via the stomata, which represents a limiting factor for metabolism. Conditions under which an increased stomatal density can improve starch production and tuber growth are being examined in field trials.


Field trials with GM potatoes

Applications 293
Countries Germany 76, The Netherlands 64, England 42, Sweden 34,

others in Spain, France, Denmark, Italy, Czech Republic, Finland, Portugal, Belgium, Austria, Poland, Ireland, Hungary

Period 1989-2010
Traits Starch composition, fungal, nematode and virus resistance
USA 831
Period 1989-2010
other countries Canada, Argentina, New Zealand, China, Australia, India, Indonesia, South Africa


Utilisation of GM potatoes

Approvals in the EU
  For cultivation As foodstuff/feed
Application 1 1
Approval 1 1
Traits Modified starch composition (exclusive formation of amylopectin)
Approvals worldwide
  For cultivation As foodstuff/feed
USA 4 4
Canada 4 4
Australia   3
Japan   4
Korea   4
Philippines   3
Mexico   3
Traits Insect resistance, virus resistance
Listed are the different GM potato lines (Events).
EU In 2010 starch potato Amflora is cultivated on 15 hectares in Germany, on 80 in Sweden  and on 150 hectares in the Czech Republic.

Introduction of phytophtora resistant potatoes is expected in 2015.

USA In 1999, approximately 25 000 hectares of genetically modified potatoes with resistance against insects and virus were cultivated in the USA and Canada. This cultivation was suspended in 2001.
other countries Canada, Romania 1999. Cultivation was not continued.


An EU Research Project

What are the risks of growing GM crops?

What are the benefits?

Numerous studies have addressed the potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants. Yet the existing evidence on the effects of GM plants is often contradictory and the quality of scientific research varies widely.

Therefore, the GRACE project will establish new tools for assessing the quality of existing studies and will conduct comprehensive reviews to identify health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GM plants.

More information


GMO Soybeans & Sustainability

Less soil erosion and fuel consumption: herbicide tolerant soybeans are promoting sustainable cultivation methods.


Glyphosate in European agriculture

Interview with a farmer

Glyphosate containing herbicides are not only used in fields with GM crops. They also allow conventional farmers to sow directly into stubble fields without ploughing. Glyphosate has replaced mechanical weed control in many crops and has had an important impact on agricultural practices and crop yields in Europe over the past few decades.

European Glyphosate Task Force

 GMO Database
GM Food and Feed: Authorization in the EU
GMO Database: Contains information on every GM plant that has been approved or is awaiting authorisation in the EU.
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