RE S EARCH nt potato in 2008 or 2009” And will we have a resistant ordinary potato with the help of this cisgenesis soon? Yes, we will. At the moment, we are isolating natural resistance genes from wild potato varieties in the laboratory. We are trying to establish their sustainability. We currently have about ten wild varieties that have natural resistance to Phytophthora in them. And we will now be looking for resistance genes that are not closely related. By putting those together, we are hoping to reach improved sustainable resistance in the potato. Thanks to molecular biology, we can more effectively estimate which and what type of resistance genes we have here. Moreover, we also know more now about the oomycete, which has allowed us to discover more factors that determine virulence. All this knowledge put together makes it possible for us to make resistances more sustainable than they are at the present moment. Does that mean that we won’t have to spray our potato crops in the future? We think that we will always have to spray against Phytophthora. We believe, however, that in the future we will only need to use very low doses of pesticides and then only at critical times. If we can stick to that, we will be able to prevent fast resistance outbreaks. This means that with cisgenesis it will be easier to draw up a real resistance strategy, which is not really possible through the classic breeding strategy. Instead of burning up resistances one by one, as happens now, we want to develop strategies that can be used to prevent that. A first condition is to have a large number of new resistance genes available for this. When will the Phytophthora resistant potato become available, do you think? I expect that a first Phytophthora resistant potato will be planted in the trial fields in 2008 or 2009. We won’t know then, of course, whether we are dealing with the right sustainable resistance genes. Next follows a selection on variety worthiness of more resistant cisgene clones that can be tested and multiplied at the same time. Add this to the development of a resistance strategy, and I think that we will have come a long way in ten years or so. Many Dutch breeders still regard genetic engineering as a nogo area. They will find your prognosis hard to believe. Yes, I know that, but they are mainly concerned about the image of their product. However, as researchers, it is our duty to bring new solutions to the peoples’ attention, and if there should be barriers, we must break them down if at all possible. I am convinced that a risk-benefit analysis will not highlight risks in this case, but only benefits. Unfortunately, the current GMO regulations are only focused on risk analysis and not on any possible compensatory advantages there may be. Luckily, a change is in sight in Europe. Do you need the acceptance of the breeder to be able to continue? We will start doing surveys first and then we will try to give examples by using free varieties. We hope to create acceptance in society that way. Once that acceptance is there, the breeding stations won’t have problems any longer. Moreover, it is in our own interests of course to ensure there can be no doubt where the image of the Dutch product is concerned. And when you have completed your surveys, everybody can go ahead? My plea was that varieties from cisgenesis should especially be made available for small and medium-sized enterprises and not only for the multinationals. Acceptance via transformation in the present transgenesis regulations will cost far too much. That price can only be paid by the really big companies that have enormous crops, soy beans for example. Because only a few transformations are being presented per crop worldwide, only a few varieties can be enriched with them. That brings the danger that the food production industry will be based on too few genetically-diverse varieties. With all the attendant risks. Genetic modification is too important a benefit, and food production worldwide too important a subject. When we are talking about Phytophthora resistance, we are talking about a social problem that calls for a global solution. What we want to encourage is that as many varieties as possible will be able to use the new technique. That way a diversity of resistant potato varieties can be developed as soon as possible. The multinationals are naturally allowed to join in, but it is not the idea that they alone will run off with cisgenesis, as they have already done with transgenesis. And what, then, is the financial advantage for the potato grower in the end? In the first place, I am thinking of a substantial reduction in the amount of pesticides and far fewer sprayings, and consequently lower fuel costs and a more sustainable crop. It will always be necessary to use preventive measures and that implies proper inspection. But as an increasing number of varieties ultimately become resistant to diseases, spraying will no longer be quite so necessary in the future. That’s where our profit lies. ● Leo Hanse Potatoworld 2006 5 Pagina 4

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