Scientists Build a Better Potato

... or at least one that seems resistant to blight

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 17, 2014 2:34 PM CST

(Newser) – It's about 175 years late for those who perished in the Irish Potato Famine, but British researchers think they've created a potato resistant to blight, reports the Irish Times. They borrowed a gene from a South American spud and added it to the common Desiree potato. After three years of crop tests, they've declared success in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Not one of their potatoes fell victim to fungus, as opposed to regular potatoes planted nearby, reports the Scotsman.

Researchers already have licensed the product to a US company but expect slower going with EU regulators over the genetically modified crop. "This kind of product will likely be on the US market within a couple of years, and if we are lucky within eight to 10 years in Europe," the not-so-happy lead scientist from Sainsbury Laboratory tells the BBC. Proponents say the potato will reduce the need for chemicals to protect crops, but skeptics says the "GM" label will be enough to put off consumers. And how do they taste? Researchers weren't allowed to eat any, so that's not known. (Last year, scientists zeroed in on the specific pathogen responsible for the famine.)

File photo of Desiree potatoes.
File photo of Desiree potatoes.   (Shutterstock)
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