GM potato no threat to health, says EFSA

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Starch, Gm

A genetically modified potato product with altered starch
composition poses no threat to human health, according to an EFSA
panel ruling.

BASF Plant Science's GM potato, EH92-527-1, has a higher amylopectin:amylose ratio.

Amylopectin starch potatoes are mainly used for the production of starch for industrial purposes, and the potatoes are not intended for direct human consumption.

However, the applicant has concluded that it cannot be excluded that the GM potato and some products of the starch processing may be used as, or be present in food.

The ruling comes after a recent summit in Parma on scientific and procedural issues relating to the risk assessment of GM food. Herman Koter, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)'s acting executive director, addressed fundamental issues such as the scientific approach and EFSA's selection of experts, while a number of NGOs expressed their concerns.

The meeting, hailed by EFSA as a positive step forward towards achieving a better understanding on the various positions surrounding GM, also highlighted significant fears within Europe over the introduction of the technology.

The recent WTO ruling backing the US, Canada and Argentina in their efforts to open Europe to GM imports has increased the likelihood of GM food proliferating.

The scientific assessment included examination of the DNA inserted into potato EH92-527-1, the nature and safety of the modification in protein expression in the plants with respect to toxicology and allergenicity. Furthermore, a comparative analysis of agronomic traits and composition as well as the safety of the food/feed was evaluated.

Both nutritional and environmental risk assessments, including monitoring plan, were undertaken.

Molecular analysis shows that potato EH92-527-1 contains two partial copies of the DNA fragment, i.e. the insert, including the flanking region, was duplicated in reverse orientation and joined tail-to-tail. This is present at a single locus in the nuclear genome of the GM plant.

The GMO Panel is of the opinion that bioinformatic analysis of the DNA insert and flanking regions indicates no cause for concern, and that sufficient evidence for the stability of the insert structure was provided.

In conclusion, the GMO Panel considered that the information available for the potato addresses the outstanding questions raised by the Member States and considers that the potato EH92-527-1 is unlikely to have an adverse effect on human and animal health or the environment in the context of its proposed uses.

The potato EH92-527-1 is derived from the cultivar Prevalent. Potato leaf discs were transformed by Agrobacterium-mediated gene transfer technology. The modification involves inhibition of the expression of granule bound starch synthase protein (GBSS) responsible for amylose biosynthesis.

As a result, the starch produced has little or no amylose and consists of amylopectin (branched starch), which modifies the physical properties of the starch. A gene conferring kanamycin resistance (nptII) was used as a selectable marker.

Related topics: Ingredients, Health

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