SOUTH AFRICA COUNCIL AWAITS APPROVAL OF NEW GM VARIETY

Published online: Jul 14, 2008 Al\
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  South Africa's Agricultural Research Council is awaiting approval to release a new potato variety resistant to the potato tuber moth both in the field and in storage.

   SpuntaG2 is the first publicly funded genetically modified crop to enter the safety approval process in South Africa. The new variety performed well in field trials and environmental studies showed the variety controls the potato tuber moth without affecting other organisms.

   It was developed with financial support from the United States Agency for International development (USAID) and the variety now is undergoing safety assessment and general release approval from the national authorities.

   Approval will allow the council to begin smallholder farmer trials under unconfined conditions and develop a certification and labeling system to prepare for commercial release of improved potato varieties.

   Potatoes saved by farmers for food or planting, are particularly affected by potato moth. They can lose some of their crop in the field and all of their stored potatoes as a result of the moths.

   The council says SpuntaG2 provides farmers with an alternative to chemical pesticide use for the control of potato tuber moth, something that will reduce costs and be healthier for people and the environment.

   One it received regulatory approval, the council; will begin farmer participatory trials under unconfined conditions and develop a certification and labeling system to prepare for commercial release of improved potato varieties.

   "SpuntaG2 has shown complete protection against tuber moth during six years of testing in six major potato growing areas of South Africa," the council says in  a statement. "These studies were carried out with permission from national regulators and included measures to control pollen and potatoes at the trial sites. Environmental studies showed that SpuntaG2 controls the potato tuber moth without affecting other organisms."

   The council says studies show the potatoes are as safe to grow and eat as other potatoes.

  "If the regulators and smallholder farmers are satisfied with SpuntaG2, the council will transfer potato tuber moth resistance to other preferred varieties," it says.

   These commercial varieties will take three to four years to develop.

   "The council does not plan to release SpuntaG2 for commercial farming unless farmers specifically request the material," it says.

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