1 October 1999

GM spuds resist danger

POTATOES genetically modified to resist cyst nematodes could make good sense, given the absence of fully-resistant conventional varieties, the long rotations needed to overcome the problem and the toxicity of chemicals currently used such as methyl-bromide and aldicarb, Peter Urwin of the University of Leeds told a GM conference organised by the SAC.

Dr Urwin described trials at his universitys farm in which four transgenic potato lines gave good control of PCN last year. A 70% reduction in PCN numbers by the end of the growing season was similar to that achieved by Sante, a conventionally-bred variety with G pallida resistance.

Some populations can partially overcome Santes resistance, but not GM resistance, which disrupts the nematodes digestion, he added. The introduced cystatin gene, which can control a wide variety of nematode species, also has no effect on non-target insects such as aphids and springtails.

Leeds University owns the patent on the anti-nematode technology. &#42