GENET archive


GMO-FREE REGIONS: Peruvian region says no to GM potatoes

                                  PART 1

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AUTHOR: International Institute for Environment and Development, UK


DATE:   18.07.2007

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please download the draft order at:

the final order will be posted at:



A major region of Peru has banned genetically modified (GM) varieties of a crop that has been grown there for thousands of years and which helped to fuel the ancient Inca empire.

The Cusco regional government’s Order 010 is intended to protect the genetic diversity of thousands of native potato varieties. It forbids the sale, cultivation, use and transport of GM potatoes as well as other native food crops.

The potato originated in the highlands of South America. Peru and its Andean neighbours are the crop’s centre of diversity - with more than 4,000 distinct varieties that farmers have developed over generations.

Local farmers’ organisations fear that genes from GM potatoes could transfer into local varieties and alter their unique properties.

The head of the regional government’s environmental office, Abel Caballero, proposed the ban ”in recognition of the historical, cultural, social and economic importance of the potato and other native crops to the Cusco Region.”

The Order was passed in response to proposals submitted by a network of local potato-farming communities and Asociacion ANDES, an indigenous nongovernmental organisation based in Cusco, in collaboration with the sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and livelihoods program at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

”This is unprecedented for Peru and a great victory for the communities of Cusco,” says Alejandro Argumedo, director of Asociacion ANDES. ”It will protect the region from contamination with GM varieties that can threaten the diversity of the potatoes and other important native food crops that are critical for food security and the economy.”

Dr Michel Pimbert, director of the sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and livelihoods program at IIED says: ”With this decision to keep GM crops out of one of the world’s most diverse centres of potato and other Andean crops, the regional government of Cusco has acted wisely and with courage. ”

”Responding to citizens’ concerns, it has put issues of food security, human well-being and the environment first and foremost at a time when most national governments persist in their failure to implement international agreements to protect the environment and human rights.”

”This, and a growing number of other examples throughout the world, suggests that much can de done by working with local governments that are not captive to national elites and transnational corporations,” says Pimbert.

More than 1.2 million people live in the Cusco region. Many are small-scale farmers for whom the potato is the most important crop.

The region’s capital Cusco is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the Americas and, along with nearby Machu Picchu (the ’Lost City’ of the Incas which was recently named as one of the new seven wonders of the world), is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Peru-based International Potato Center (CIP) announced on 6 July that it had developed the first GM crop variety in Peru - a GM potato that can resist attack by insects called weevils (a major pest species).

The potato, named Revolución produces no pollen, and has been tested only in the laboratory to date. It was genetically modified to carry a bacterial gene that produces a protein called Bt that is toxic to insects.

Similar potato varieties are undergoing field trials in Egypt, South Africa, the United States and Indonesia.



The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent, non-profit research institute. Set up in 1971 and based in London, IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development. See:

The Association for Nature and Sustainable Development (ANDES) is a non-profit Peruvian indigenous organisation that aims to improve the quality of life of Andean indigenous communities by promoting the conservation and sustainable use of their bio-cultural heritage through rights-based conservation-development approaches. See:

In November 2006, the Andean Parliament passed a resolution to declare the countries of the Andean Community (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia) free of genetically modified potatoes. The resolution urges governments of the Andean countries to stop any field trial, manipulation and experimentation with genetically modified potatoes to eliminate the risk of loss of genetic variability of potatoes. It also calls for an end to any activity related with propagation in the environment, commercial use, transportation, use, commercialisation and production of GM Potato, inside the Andean Community. See

for information on the Andean Parliament.

                                  PART 2

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AUTHOR: Press Release


DATE:   31.05.2007

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The Cusco region is located in one of the world’s eight Vavilov centres of origin and domestication of cultivated plants. It has also been recognized as a centre of origin of the potato and its territory has the greatest diversity of native potatoes in the world. The knowledge, practices and innovation systems of the native peoples of Cusco have created, maintained and continue to develop a great variety of crops and plants of great socioeconomic and cultural importance, perhaps one of the most important of these crops is the potato.

Given its condition as a centre of origin and traditional domestication of various species and varieties of crops which are found in the region, particularly the more than 4000 varieties of native potato, and given the lack of scientific evidence about the impacts of GMOs on the natural environment and health, and considering the irreversible nature of the risks and possible damage for native species and wild relatives of potato and other crops from such biotechnologies, it is necessary to take action to prevent contamination in centres of origin and agrobiodiversity such as Cusco. It is also necessary to consider the economic potential of emerging markets for natural products, free of GMOs and the potential for the region to develop and sell such products.

The Regional Government of Cusco, in accordance with the spirit and postulates of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Internacional Agreement on Fitogenetic Resources for Food and Agricultura of FAO, and given the necessity of adopting precautionary measures to safeguard the genetic, biological and cultural heritage of the Cusco, declares the Cusco Region a GMO-Free Zone since it is a Centre of Origin and domestication of the potato and important native crops, and for its associated ecological, cultural, social and economic value.

This declaration is an initiative of the Manager of Natural Resources and Environment of the Regional Government of Cusco, in collaboration the Association ANDES. The declaration is also supported by the Network of Peasant Communities to Celebrate the International Year of the Potato, for which a public statement was made on May 9, 2007.

                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: International Potato Center, Peru

AUTHOR: Press Release


DATE:   12.07.2007

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Scientists at the International Potato Center (CIP) in Lima, Peru have used genetic engineering to develop a variety of potato that resists insect attack but does not threaten the biodiversity of native potatoes.

CIP transferred a gene that confers total resistance to the potato tuber moth (Phthorimaea operculella) into the Revolution potato variety. Revolution is a Peruvian potato that does not produce pollen - it is naturally sterile. Thanks to the transferred Bt gene, so called because it produces a toxin identical that of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, the new variety does not need any pesticide to control moth attack.

Successfully incorporating this resistance into the variety is a very important scientific achievement, because the potato tuber moth is a major cause of damage, as illustrated by the results of a farmer survey conducted by CIP in 2003 in five traditional potato-producing provinces.

To counteract the threat caused by the moth, potato farmers use large amounts of pesticides. According to research conducted in the Mantaro valley (in the central Andes of Peru) in 2004, the products most utilized for moth control in warehouses are the highly toxic phosphorates and carbamates. A study made by CIP in 2006 for the World Bank showed that such pesticide use was particularly damaging to the health of the farmers and harmful to the environment.

”Unfortunately, there are not many alternatives to control this pest,” said Marc Ghislain, Head of the Biotechnology Laboratory at CIP. ”Conventional improvement has not developed very resistant varieties and integrated pest management is not being adopted to control the insects that attack the potato crops.”

Because of this situation, specialists in molecular biology at CIP turned to genetic engineering, an approach that has been successful for more than a decade in controlling pests in other crops, such as corn and cotton. It has been applied on a large scale in commercial production.

One of the most important concerns in genetically engineering crops is the possibility of the genes flowing into native varieties. This is a particularly sensitive issue in Peru because it is the center of origin of the potato. Because of this concern, the Bt gene has been transferred into a naturally sterile variety to remove any chance of transfer of the gene. In addition, the resistant variety will not be released into the Peruvian market because the government does not yet have regulations governing products obtained from engineering genetic, ”The Bt potato variety is a product that makes it possible to eliminate the use of the most harmful pesticides without the risks of modified genes escaping into the native varieties,” concluded Marc Ghislain.

The announcement was delivered at the end of the first workshop for Media journalists, titled ”Genes, transgenic crops: when the journalists enter the laboratory”, carried out on 5 July in the headquarters of CIP, in Lima.

The objective of the workshop was to increase the knowledge of biotechnology within the journalists working in communications media. The workshop was eminently scientific and was given by specialists in genetics, molecular biology, and genetic resources of CIP, and also included a visit and practices in the biomolecular laboratories.



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