Genetically modified potatoes resistant to late potato blight will be planted on two sites in England in 2007.

DEFRA has approved an application by agchem giant BASF to undertake the trials, which will test the effectiveness of the potato’s resistance against UK strains of the disease.

Similar trials are already underway in three other European countries.

The application has been evaluated by independent body the Advisory Committee of Releases to the Environment (ACRE).

DEFRA said ACRE was satisfied that the trials, in Derbyshire and Cambridgeshire, would not adversely affect human health or the environment.

Precautionary conditions would ensure that GM material did not persist at the trial sites, said DEFRA.

The harvested GM potatoes would not be used for food or animal feed.Environment Minister Ian Pearson said the top priority was to protect consumers and the environment.

“A rigorous independent assessment has concluded that these trials do not give rise to any safety concerns.”

BASF’s Barry Stickings said:  “We are delighted that DEFRA has given us the go-ahead to conduct genetically modified potato trials in the UK.

“We are confident that planting will commence in March/April next year.”
 
Mr Stickings said the genetically improved potatoes used a wild potato’s natural trait that caused resistance to blight.

“The research could provide a valuable new way to control a severe disease that causes global crop damage costing up to £2bn a year.”
 
BASF submitted an application to DEFRA on 21 August 2006 to undertake the trials.