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Colombia develops research on GM potatoes

A potato resistant to the Guatemalan moth, which is being developed at the Medellin's Corporation for Biological Research (CIB), is expected to be available to producers within three years. This technology could bring benefits in terms of protection against pests, herbicide resistance, savings in production costs and increased productivity.

"Basically, producers know biotechnology has many benefits. Year after year purchases of this type of seed remain stable or the area with these crops increases. Producers see benefits in protecting their crops against pests, better crop management and thus, lowering production costs and increasing productivity," said Maria Andrea Uscategui, executive director of Agro-Bio.

Maria stated that the acceptance of these crops and their research was controversial in Colombia, but that other nations had a lot of development in this area.

"At the research level there are many more crops. The United States approved an apple that does not oxidize as quickly; Bangladesh has an eggplant that is resistant to insects, there is corn and sugarcane that is drought resistant; we hope farmers have access to these technologies. We know there is a regulatory process and a prior assessment of these technologies so it may take time for them to be available in the country," said Maria.

Regarding the main research being conducted in the country, the executive director of Agro-Bio noted that "the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) is investigating cassava, rice and sugarcane, Cenicaña is also researching cane, the Corporation for Biological Research (CIB) is working to make potatoes resistant to the Guatemalan moth, and the National University is working on maize, potato and rice. Colombia is conducting research, but it can still take about three years for these new developments to be approved."

GM crops in the world
According to a report recently published by the Service for the Acquisition of the biotech Applications (ISAAA), 181.5 million hectares of genetically modified (GM) crops were grown worldwide in 2014, six million more than in 2013.

With the addition of Bangladesh, there were 28 countries growing biotech, 20 of which are developing nations and eight are industrialized countries.

Since 1996, more than 10 crops have been approved for marketing, including commodities such as soybean, corn, cotton and fruits and vegetables such as papaya, squash, eggplant and potatoes.

The modifications introduced go beyond making the crops tolerant to herbicides and resistant to diseases and insects, they also include other important features for the producer and the consumer, such as drought tolerance and quality improvements.

According to the report, the United States continues to lead the production of transgenic products with 73.1 million hectares and also has the highest growth (4 per cent) since 2013.


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