Published online: Mar 10, 2008 Alan Harman
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Chemical maker BASF SE has postponed cultivation of a new genetically modified potato and has threatened legal action because the European Union has failed to make a decision on its release.

BASF Plant Science president and chief executive Hans Kast said in a statement that the EU Commission is violating the EU's own rules by delaying a decision on the release of BASF's genetically modified Amflora potato.

Kast said it is too late now to plant for this season and cultivation will have to be delayed until next year. He also said he figures the approval was withheld for political reasons as no factual reason was given.

The Amflora potato has been altered to increase its starch content for industrial use.

The Commission received the application to grow Amflora in July after the EU Council of Agricultural Ministers failed to make a decision.

BASF expected Commission approval after the European Food Safety Authority stated that Amflora is as safe for humans, animals and the environment as any conventional potato.

BASF has been involved in an approval process that has already lasted more than 10 years.

Amflora was developed to strengthen the competitiveness of the potato starch market, which is mainly based in Europe. Every year, 2 million tons of potato starch, equivalent to 75 percent of the world market, is produced in Europe. BASF estimates that Amflora starch will provide a yearly added value of more than _100 million ($153.5 million) for the starch potato industry and growers in Europe.

Amflora produces pure amylopectin starch, ideal for technical applications. Conventional potatoes produce a mixture of amylopectin and amylose starch. For many technical applications, such as in the paper, textile and adhesives industries, only amylopectin is needed; separating the two starch components is uneconomical.

Amflora produces pure amylopectin starch and thus helps to save resources, energy and costs. BASF says paper produced with amylopectin starch has a higher gloss and adhesives can be processed for a longer period of time.