French biotech council calls Amflora “superfluous”
Paris - The Haut Conseil des Biotechnologies (HCB), a committee founded in France in 2008, voiced no objection in principle to the cultivation of BASF’s genetically modified potato Amflora. In a statement, the experts said that the plant doesn’t constitute a particular risk, but also remarked that it only has limited economic value and is therefore unnecessary.
The two HCB subcommittees approached the issue from different perspectives. In the opinion requested by the French government, the head of the council’s Scientific Committee (CS) stressed that because Amflora is only to be used for industrial purposes and animal fodder, its accidental direct use in the food chain needs to be excluded. The risk of the genes propagating in the wild, he said, is also limited given the low pollen spread and specific characteristics of Amflora, which is not very fertile and is very susceptible to powdery mildew. Nevertheless, the CS recommended appropriate measures in order to minimize the residual risk of outcrossing and to ensure the coexistence of industrial potato production and the potato food crop. Led by Christine Noiville, the HCB’s Ethics and Social Committee (CEES) on the other hand favoured a ban on Amflora, saying we still know too little about the microbiology of the soil to exclude gene transfer events.
The French government will use the report to decide on the potential cultivation of Amflora. At the moment, no French farmers are growing the GM potato, a government spokesperson confirmed.