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Avoiding Contamination from GE Potatoes

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.

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