The government plans to release genetically modified (GM) potato, reportedly capable of resisting late blight disease, during the upcoming season.
“We are planning to apply for the approval for releasing one variety of GM potato at the end of this year,” said Rafiqul Islam Mondol, director general of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI).
BARI has developed GM potatoes by inserting pest and weather-resistant gene in two local potato varieties – Cardinal and Diamond.
“Of the two, we are planning to release only the Diamond variety at the field level this year as we are satisfied with the results,” said Rafiqul.
Late blight is one of the major diseases that damages potato plants and also its production. A resistance gene named Solanum bulbocastanum found in a wild potato variety in Latin American has been used to develop the genetically modified potato varieties in Bangladesh.
BARI has cultivated the varieties at its six research centres in Rangpur, Gazipur, Jessore, Bogra, Comilla and Hathazari.
Rafiqul said: “We will send the necessary documents seeking the approval within the next two to three months to the National Bio-safety Committee under the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The variety will be released to the farmers.”
The government has been trying to develop GM potato varieties since 2006 from American potato variety transgenic Katahdin SP 951 developed by Colonel University.
Initially, more than 300 clones of Cardinal and Diamond varieties were developed in an Indonesian laboratory, and confined trials have been being run for the last three seasons.
Of them, only six clones were selected for the final trial.
The GM crop varieties such as golden rice, bt brinjal and potatoes are transgenic crops, and special approval from the bio-safety authorities are needed for conducting field trials.
“The bio-safety committee will consider giving approval for releasing the agro-varieties after getting applications along with required documents from the developers,” said Muhamamd Solaiman Haider, member secretary of the committee.
The objective for developing GM crop varieties was to improve crop protection mechanism through introducing resistance against plant diseases caused by insects or viruses or through increased tolerance towards herbicides.
Following the release of four GM brinjal varieties in October 2013, the potato varieties will become the latest GM crops in the country.