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GM research on peas: field tests to be relocated to the USA

(02 October 2009) The Institute for Plant Genetics of Leibniz University Hannover will continue field testing on genetically modified peas in the USA. Head of the Institute, Prof. Hans-Jörg Jacobsen, said that this move was taken because of the threat of destruction of test sites and the politically unstable regulatory framework in Germany.

For some time now, scientists at the Institute for Plant Genetics have been working on disease-resistant and high-yield feed peas. Their cultivation could help reduce dependency on imports of protein feedstuffs. An additional benefit of legumes such as feed peas, is that they enrich the supply of nitrates in the soil, so that less nitrogenous fertiliser is necessary the following year. Up to now, attempts at larger-scaled feed-pea cultivation have failed, mostly due to weather conditions which in some years led to fungus infections resulting in dramatic yield and quality losses.

No long-term solution to the problem has yet to be found with conventional breeding methods. Plant geneticists at Hannover University have been searching in bacteria and other plants for natural defense mechanisms against fungal diseases. Corresponding genes have been transferred to feed peas and various lines have been developed which have shown significantly improved resistance to fungal diseases – however, only in the lab and greenhouse so far. The effectivity of the new resistance concept now needs to be tested in the field. Hannover University has come to a cooperation agreement on this with the US North Dakota State University, provisionally planned for up to 2014.

Prof. Hans-Jörg Jacobsen based the decision to discontinue carrying out field tests of GM cultivations in Germany because of increased administration and costs required for field release tests, which a university institute could not afford. Furthermore, "undisturbed test procedures" could no longer be assumed due to field destruction and the political climate in Germany. This is "unnacceptable" particulary for those young scientists whose theses and doctoral work have been connected with the project.


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