Court overturns approval to grow GM potato in Europe

The second highest court in the EU has ruled that BASF’s genetically modified potato Amflora cannot be planted in Europe. This overturns a previous decision in 2010 by the European commission that cultivation of the potato could proceed. BASF abandoned plans to grow this potato, or any of its other GM potatoes, in Europe in 2012, citing opposition to the technology.

The court came to the decision that Amflora could not be grown in Europe because the commission had not followed its own rules when approving it. When the potato was approved for cultivation the commission used its original 2007 proposal, which did not include the European Food Safety Authority’s updated 2009 opinion on Amflora.

Amflora was created by BASF to address problems with using potatoes in paper making and other industrial applications. The starch found in conventional potatoes is a mixture of two molecules: 80% amylopectin and 20% amylose. Manufacturers want the amylopectin for its superior adhesive properties and processing potatoes to remove the amylose is costly. By turning off one the genes responsible for amylose production the firm was able to create a potato that was better suited to the needs of industry.

In recent years, BASF has retreated from the European biotechnology crops market. In January 2012, BASF moved the headquarters of its transgenic crop division from Germany to the US, with the loss of 140 jobs. Presently, only one GM crop has been approved for cultivation in Europe.

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