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Colombia develops genetically modified potato

The Corporation for biological research (CIB) in Medellin is developing a potato that is resistant to the Guatemala moth, and that could be available to producers in about three years time. We spoke with María Andrea Uscátegui, Executive Director of Agro-Bio, who stressed the benefits of this technology in the field of protection against pests, resistance to herbicides, savings in the costs of production and increased productivity.

DIARIO DEL HUILA published yesterday, exclusively, that the country increased its genetically modified crop areas, what do you think about this growth?

Basically farmers see many benefits in biotechnology. Year after year purchases of this type of seed remain stable or the area cultivated by them increases. Producers see benefits in protecting their crops against pests, better crop management and, therefore, savings in production costs and increasing their productivity.

Arauca and Boyaca were the first departments to plant transgenic seeds.

Yes, there are several regions interested. It all depends on the market available to farmers for selling their crops. And it's not only the regions, but also many farmers that are interested in using this type of crop.

And speaking of products, what seeds have been approved for the country and which ones are ready to enter?

What happens is that genetically modified crops are basically focused on four crops: corn, cotton, soybeans and canola. Although there are developments in other products, these continue to improve year after year. The developers of this type of technology are looking to offer increasingly more benefits to the farmers regarding pests and herbicide-resistant protection.

What major research is being carried out in Colombia?

The country continues to investigate. The process is slow, it requires much time and many resources to achieve approval. The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) continues conducting research in cassava, rice and sugarcane; Cenicaña does the same in sugar cane; the Corporation for biological research (CIB) works in a Guatemalan moth-resistant potato; the National University works in maize, potato and rice. There are investigations carried out in Colombia, but it may still take some three years to achieve approval.

What national study is about to hit the market?

The research that is currently more advanced is the Guatemala moth-resistant potato. It is an investigation of the CIB in Medellin, they already did all the stages of biosafety in laboratories, greenhouses in confined areas and then in controlled open-field areas. There still are some tests needed before going to market.

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

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

Since 1996, more than 10 crops were authorized for marketing, including commodities such as soybean, corn and cotton and also fruits and vegetables like papaya, pumpkin, eggplant and potato.

The features introduced go beyond herbicide tolerance and resistance to diseases and insects, they also incorporate 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 GM with 73.1 million hectares and also has the highest growth (4 per cent) since 2013.

By: Fausto Mauricio Manrique Horta


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