On May 18, 2016 / GE Avoidance, GE Contamination, GMO Contamination Mitigation, Organic Farming, Organic Seed Production, Potatoes, Seed News
Potato (Solanum tuberosum)
Organic and non-GE potatoes are considered at low-risk from genetically engineered (GE) potatoes. Since potatoes are propagated vegetatively (from tubers) there is no risk of pollen-caused GE contamination for potatoes grown as seed or tablestock.
The highest risk for GE contamination of potatoes is inadvertent mixing during handling and storage. Inadvertent varietal mixing is a factor in Certified Seed potato production: State inspectors look for it in the field, and penalize seed growers’ scores if mixing is found.
There is also a risk of crop contamination due to GE potato volunteers, if an organic crop is planted in a field that once contained GE potatoes.
However, a potato breeder saving seeds from the tomato-like green seed balls (which appear after blossom drop), with the intention of developing a new variety, should become concerned that errant pollen from GE potatoes could theoretically impact their potato breeding program.
Cross-pollination has been found to be greater when the GE and non-GE varieties are different, and when primary pollinators, such as the pollen beetle are present. One study found that the level of cross-pollination level was 31% when the distance between GE and non-GE potato crops was 1km.
Best Management for GE-free potatoes…
Identify potential points of contamination.Scout and remove volunteer potato plants.
Avoid tuber mixing during harvest, cleaning, storage, transport, and sales.
Use dedicated equipment and facilities if possible.
For more information, read the Soil Association’s (UK) briefing on GM potatoes.