South Africa's Agricultural Research Council (ARC) has developed a new potato
variety resistant to the potato tuber moth, a major pest causing millions worth of harvest loss in major solanaceous crops.
The transgenic potato SpuntaG2, developed through the support of the United States Agency for International development, now awaits safety assessment and general release approval from the national authorities.
The approval will enable the ARC to initiate farmer participatory trials under unconfined conditions and develop a certification and labeling system to prepare for commercial release of improved potato varieties.
SpuntaG2 is the first publicly-funded genetically modified crop to enter the safety approval process in South Africa. The new variety performed well in field trials and studies show that the GM crop controls the potato tuber moth without affecting other organisms.
The SpuntaG2 potato provides farmers with an alternative to chemical pesticide use for the control of potato tuber moth.
SpuntaG2 has shown complete protection against tuber moth during six years of testing in six major potato growing areas of South Africa.
These studies were carried out with permission from national regulators and included measures to control pollen and potatoes at the trial sites.
Studies show that the potatoes are as safe to grow and eat as other potatoes. When this has been reconfirmed and approved by South African authorities under the GMO Act, the ARC will enable smallholder farmers to test the potatoes in their fields.
Once approved by regulators, the ARC will include SpuntaG2 to its breeding programme and transfer the potato tuber moth resistance to other preferred varieties.