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Multi-agency GM potato objection

Category: News
17 March 2017

ORC joins with 32 other organisations in letter to Defra to request that the application from the Sainsbury Laboratory to release genetically modified (GM) potatoes is refused


Potato blight can be combated through conventional breeding and cultural methods

The letter, co-ordinated by GM Freeze sets out the reasons why we believe that this trial should not go ahead. The applicant has neglected to consider a number of serious and complex hazards. The trial represents a significant risk and will not benefit society.

In summary, our objection covers the following points:

    1. The application for a field trial is premature.
      • The molecular characterisation of five of the proposed six lines is missing.
      • Interactions between genes and between traits have not been evaluated.
      • There is no consideration of potential adverse effects from the insertion of gene-silencing modules.
      • The justification for a field trial is weak.
    2. The GM potato lines contain a wide range of stacked traits, increasing the potential for unexpected interactions and synergisms, with unintended consequences.
    3. The application does not include any consideration of the potential hazards of the gene-silencing module and risk assessment for RNAi-based genetic modifications is not currently possible. We detail:
      • Food safety risks of the genetic modification for gene silencing.
      • Environmental risks of the genetic modification for gene silencing, in particular the potential impact on non-target organisms.
    4. The proposed trial also presents several more familiar, potentially significant, risks. These include:
      • The potential impacts of the synthetic nematode repellent on non-target soil organisms.
      • The potential impact of herbicide tolerance genes.
      • The GM potatoes may contain an antibiotic resistance marker gene.
      • The risk of GM contamination.
    5. The trial will not be of benefit to society because:
      • The eventual crop will be of no net benefit to consumers.
      • There is no market for GM potatoes. Genetic modification is not necessary for either blight resistance or PCN resistance.

    Read the full letter and list of signatories at http://www.gmfreeze.org/publications/consultation-responses/197/

    Keywords: GM potato blight

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