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3-Food: ICAR refutes claims of higher protein content in GE potato

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TITLE:  ICAR Refutes Claims Of Higher Protein In New GM Potato
SOURCE: The Financial Express, India, by Ashok B Sharma
DATE:   Jun 29, 2003

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ICAR Refutes Claims Of Higher Protein In New GM Potato

The director-general of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR),
Dr Mangla Rai has refuted the claims that the genetically modified (GM)
potato developed in India contains 40 per cent more protien than the
traditional varieties.

Speaking to FE, Dr Rai said that it is premature to say what would be the
protien content in the GM potato. He said that the controlled trials of
diploid GM potatoes are over. But diploid potatoes are not for human
consumption and hence it is not necessary to discuss the protien content
in these potatoes. The trial results of tetraploid GM potatoes, which are
meant for human consumption, would show what would be the protien content
and to what extent it can help to remove malnutrional problems in the country.

Dr Rai said that so far only generation trials of teraploid GM potato has
been conducted at a single location and data are awaited for assessment.
More trials of tetraploid GM potatoes are needed for making a final

Dr Rai statement runs counter to that of the biotechnology secretary, Dr
Manju Sharma who recently had told the BBC in Paris that GM potato will
be released for commercial cultivation with six months and would be
included in the mid-day meal programme for school children as it contains
40 per cent more protien than the tradtional varieties. The developers of
the GM potato, Prof Asis Datta also claimed that it contains 40 per cent
more protien.

Dr Rai, however, without naming any concerned person said that the GM
potato needs final assessment before one could say about its protien
content. GM potato cannot be released within six months as more trials
are need, he said.

The director of the Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI), Dr SM Paul
Khurana said "even if we are to believe that the protien content in GM
potato claims has been increased to 2.8 per cent from 2 per cent in
traditional varieties as claimed by the developers, it is not sufficient
to solve the malnutrional problems." He further said "as per claims GM
potato contains 2.8 per cent protien per 100 gram and it is evident that
one cannot consume tonnes of potato per day to have a required level of
nutritional intake."

Dr Khurana said that the GM potato developed by insertion of Ama-1 gene
from Amaranthus plant into the background traditional varieties like
Jyoti, Sinduri, Sutlej, Pokhraj and Jawahar. Ama-1 gene contains protiens
like lysine, threonine, methionine and tyrocine. He said that the
scientists at Jawaharlal Nehru University, National Institute of
Nutrition and CPRI are still verifying the impacts of GM potato. He said
that at least there should be two years of fields of GM potato in the
hills and in the plains.


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