20 November 1998

Blight-beating potatoes

POTATOES genetically modified to be totally immune to blight could be commercialised in four years.

Researchers at Dutch breeder Mogen have developed a technique for transferring hypersensitive responses between plants. One such trait has already been moved into tomatoes, conferring total immunity against cladosporium, mildew and potato blight, explained Mogens Leo Melchers. "It shows it works and the potency of it." Work is now underway to move the desired genes to potatoes.

Other Mogen work has successfully inserted genes coding for anti-fungal proteins into carrots to control a range of foliage diseases, rhizoctonia in cereals, several diseases in oilseed rape and fusarium in wheat. Novartis, Du Pont and Monsanto are also involved in similar work, Mr Melchers noted.

Commercialising such work will take four to eight years. &#42