Back in April, the EU controversially approved a genetically modified potato, and now it looks like scientists are working on yet another GM spud.
At India’s Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI), scientists are developing a genetically modified potato that has 60% more protein than the conventional sort. They’ve spliced the potato gene with a gene from amaranth, which helps boost the plant’s protein production.
Potatoes are easy to grow in a variety of climates, and much of the world relies on them for a good portion of their calories. By upping the protein, researchers at CPRI are hoping to help fight hunger.
Not only does this potato have more protein, it promises increased yeilds – up to 25% more by weight.
Do We Need a Better Potato?
A typical baked potato has around 2.5 grams of protein, versus 4.8 grams in this new, transgenic version. That’s certainly a big increase, but so many people get more protein than they need already. Is protein deficiency that big of a problem? There are plenty of cheap protein sources, like beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
We’ve heard promises that GM crops mean increased yields before, and they don’t always deliver. Look at what happened when Indian farmers relied on promises about GM cotton.
While preliminary tests on these new potatoes have not shown any allergic or toxic reactions in rats, we can’t know the long term effects of growing and eating food that has been altered on a genetic level. Fighting hunger is a noble aim, but I’m not sure I believe that a silver bullet like this GM potato is a realistic answer.
What do you guys think?
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by funadium