GMO blight-resistant potato development funded by taxpayers money
Taxpayer money spent to develop GM blight-resistant potato using genes from non-GM naturally blight-resistant potato
Barbara H. Peterson
Yes, it is true. There are non-GMO blight-resistant potatoes grown naturally, and already on the market that do not require patents. They were developed using traditional plant breeding methods, and are not genetically engineered in a lab.
Potato ‘Sarpo Collection’
With exceptional resistance to potato blight, virus, disease and drought, these ‘Sarpo’ varieties produce high yields – even in poorer soils. Perfect for gardeners who want to grow delicious potatoes without the need for chemical sprays, excessive irrigation and soil improvement additives. Heights and spreads: 60cm (24″).
Potato ‘Sárpo Mira’ (maincrop) – With unprecedented blight resistance, and good slug resistance, this variety produces huge yields of tasty, floury tubers.
Potato ‘Blue Danube’ (early maincrop) – Previously known as ‘Adam Blue’, the stunning blue-purple skinned, oval tubers have bright white flesh of good flavour, that are excellent for general culinary purpose.
Potato ‘Sárpo Kifli’ (early maincrop) – Produces elongated white-skinned tubers with a fabulous ‘new potato’ flavour, that is best enjoyed when tubers are freshly harvested and cooked in their skins.
Potato ‘Sárpo Axona’ (maincrop) – Similar to ‘Sarpo Mira’ but the tubers are more regular in shape and the flesh is slightly more creamy.
These naturally blight-resistant potatoes called Sarpo Mira do not need to be sprayed with herbicides or pesticides, or anything that a chemical/seed company such as Syngenta, Dow, Dupont, BASF, or Monsanto sells. And therein lies the rub. No patent, no profit for proprietary seed and chemical sales, and no monopoly for the biotech industry. The solution? Take the genes from a naturally resistant plant and create a genetically engineered resistant one by splicing and dicing in a lab, and viola! You have a patented version of the original with the added benefit of increasing your company’s bottom line and expanded control of the food supply by biotech interests.
GM blight-resistant potato: Another GMO white elephant
£750K of taxpayers’ money has been spent to develop a GM blight-resistant potato – even though non-GM naturally blight-resistant potatoes are already available to growers.
Dr Jonathan Jones and the Sainsbury Laboratory were given over £750K of taxpayers’ money to take a gene from the naturally blight-resistant Sarpo Mira potato and use it to make a GM potato designed for blight resistance.
It’s an act that is perfectly legal, though some may view it as biopiracy. The genes in non-GM plants cannot be patent-protected. Dr David Shaw of the Sarvari Research Trust, which developed the Sarpo Mira and similar blight-resistant potatoes, confirmed to GMWatch that the Trust has received no remuneration for Jones’s use of the gene from the Sarpo Mira potato.
Dr Shaw said: “Once listed and marketed, our varieties can be used by anyone for producing a new variety. I do know that many potato breeders are using our varieties as parents in crosses and we cannot charge for that.”
The GM potato has been tested in field trials and is touted as reducing agrochemicals (http://www.tsl.ac.uk/gmtrial.html) – an irony that will not be lost on the Sarvari Trust, which is well aware that its Sarpo potatoes do not need spraying.
The £750K swallowed by the GM potato project was given to Jones and Sainsbury Lab by the BBSRC, the UK’s public funding body for science. The BBSRC no longer publishes the biographies or declarations of interests of its board members, though historically these have included many people affiliated with the GM industry:
In previous work a team of scientists at Wageningen University and the Sainsbury Lab isolated a pyramid of five different genes from the Sarpo Mira potato, which “confer both qualitative and quantitative resistance to late blight”.
Jones’ project and the Wageningen/Sainsbury work show that a GM blight-resistant potato is simply not needed because the non-GM potatoes from which the genes were taken are already blight-resistant. The Sarvari Trust potatoes’ blight resistance has proved stable over many years and shows no sign of breaking down.
Growers can already buy “Sarpo Collection” potato tubers from Thompson & Morgan:
So why are Jones and other GM pushers trying to develop a GM blight-resistant potato when perfectly good non-GM ones are already available?
There’s only one explanation: GM potatoes can be patented. If and when this happens with the GM potato developed by Jones and the Sainsbury Lab, the hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money poured into the project will vanish into GM industry coffers.
Help the Sarvari Trust
We hear there’s a lively and growing market for non-GM blight-resistant Sarpo potatoes in Ireland. But unlike Jones and the Sainsbury Lab, the Sarvari Trust is struggling for funds to survive.
Join the “crowd” of supporters and researchers who help the Sarvari Trust with their work: www.buzzbnk.org/SarpoPotatoes
Listen to interview on Radio Dublin:
Watch the video from Garden Organic’s Potato Day:
See SPUDS Ireland with Kaethe Burt O’Dea:
Read Sunday Telegraph on taste of Sarpo varieties:
It is apparent that the biotech industry’s mantra of feeding the starving people has absolutely no basis in reality as the only reason one would have to genetically engineer something that is already solving the problem naturally and without genetic engineering is greed.
Feeding the starving people? Yeah, right. But first, let’s create a complete food monopoly, poison the seeds and plants with chemicals as well as viruses and bacteria designed in a lab and cloned, charge every person everywhere for each genetically engineered seed and the privilege of planting for one season only, extract blood money for the needed chemicals to spray on the crops, poison the soil and water with those chemicals, and laugh all the way to the bank while the victims of this attack lay bleeding on the ground, coughing up what’s left of their lives in a genetically engineered world full of poisons, toxins, and mutant DNA. And tomorrow? Who cares. Let tomorrow take care of itself.
Barbara H. Peterson