In Bangladesh, farmers usually spend BDT 80 -100 billion per year in spraying of fungicide to protect our major tuber crop, potato. This is just to control Late Blight disease caused by Phytophthora infestans, a fungus. According to Food and Agriculture Organization, in 2017 around 25-57% potato yield loss occurs annually in Bangladesh even after fungicide application. This indicates that presently used fungicides are not working properly. This calls for alternatives to at least reduce this loss. Attempts to introduce LB Resistant potato varieties of conventional breeding will require more time for adoption. Potato breeders have spent years crossing cultivated potatoes with their wild relatives to produce late-blight-resistant varieties, but the possibility of expected resistance level is low for commercial seed and non-seed production. Farmers prefer growing varieties that consumers want, even if they require a significant investment in fungicides. This is due to the lower chance of transfer gene networks associated with the particular gene/s responsible for resistance to physiological races of the fungus. Scientists at the International Potato Center (CIP) consequently decided to try Genetic Engineering to transfer gene/s that confer resistance to late blight in wild relatives of potato into commercial potato varieties popular with farmers and consumers. There are already five varieties of Genetically Engineered potato approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for USA and Canada. Recently, FDA approved three new varieties from Simplot Seed Company. These are; Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet and Atlantic which are the part of the Innate Gen. Two lines are already in the field for industrial production. “The Innate Gen. 2 potato is the most significant advancement to date in fighting late blight disease in North America,” says David Douches, Director of Potato Breeding and Genetics Program at Michigan State University. “Since late blight disease impacts both organic and conventional potato crops on a commercial scale and must be treated with fungicides, Innate provides the opportunity for a significant reduction.” In Bangladesh, Tuber Crop Research Centre (TCRC), BARI working to develop late blight resistant potato varieties with Michigan State University. TCRC isolated regional Phytophthora infestans from local source and sent the same to MSU for developing blight resistant GM potato lines. The lines will then be put under confined trials and field trials in Bangladesh for release as variety. Released blight resistant potato will be the second commercially released GM food crop in South Asia after Bt Brinjal, which was also released by Bangladesh in 2013. This would help to reduce the use of chemical fungicides by up to 90%. Developing and releasing GM varieties by public sector needs comprehensively linked private sector for seed production and product marketing. In Bangladesh that is not the case till now with Bt Brinjal. It is very important for increasing production, and reducing fungicide use. It is already expected that the government under strong monitoring will accept private seed companies to start producing seeds and marketing the products.
ASRBC, ACI LTD