Potato grade Amflora

"Amflora" (EH92-527-1) is the name used for a potato grade developed by the company BASF Plant Science, whose starch production has been genetically modified in such a way that it is more suitable for particular industrial purposes. In Europe, approximately half of the processed starch stems from potatoes. Starch is not only used in the foods industry but is also a component of numerous products in the so-called non-food-sector. Conventional potatoes contain two different grades of starch, amylopectin and amylose; the GM potato grade Amflora, however, develops only the amylopectin starch. While both ingredients are important for human nutrition, for many technical applications, such as the paper-, yarn- and glue industry, only amylopectin is needed.

According to its manufacturer, Amflora is a safe product, which offers a broad application spectrum and helps to safe both energy and costs since an expensive separation of the starch blend can be avoided. Meanwhile, critics point to the dangers which, according to their view, are connected with the cultivation of the genetically modified potato grade. A gene was added to Amflora, which renders the plants resistant against the antibiotics kanamycin and neomycin. This is necessary in order to separate the successfully genetically modified seedlings from specimens which do not bear the desired modification. The critics fear an unforeseeable transmission of this gene to soil bacteria and eventually an unintended resistance against antibiotics in humans.

Prior to its admission, the GM amylopectin-potato has been examined in the laboratory and in outdoor tests with regards to yield, resistance to vermin and diseases as well as hazards for humans, animals and the environment. The biggest German field trial with Amflora, covering a highly secured area of 20 hectares, took place in Mecklenburg-Hither Pomerania in 2009.

On March 2, 2010, after an approval procedure which lasted 13 years, the EU Commission authorised the cultivation of Amflora for the production of industrial starch and animal feed (the GM potato was never intended for food use). Only three years later, however, in December 2013, the General Court of the European Union declared the approval invalid due to procedural errors. The EU approval procedure for genetically modified food and animal feed requires that the European Commission or the Council of the European Union decide on applications for cultivation on the basis of a scientific opinion by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Two committees consisting of representatives of the Member States support the EU Commission in making its decisions. In the course of the approval procedure for Amflora, EFSA had issued several statements all of which concluded that the potato grade poses no hazards either for human or animal health or for the environment. In its verdict, the General Court complained that the EU Commission failed to submit the latest EFSA statement to the responsible committees before authorising the cultivation of Amflora.

The annulment of the authorisation for Amflora through the General Court of the EU has no practical relevance in view of the fact that Amflora is no longer cultivated in the EU since 2012. The BASF group announced that it will abandon the cultivation of GM food and animal feed in Europe and instead focus on markets in North and South America as well as in Asia. The reasons given were the lack of acceptance in politics as well as in the general population and fear of new attacks on open field trials by opponents of genetic engineering.

The application of the CRISPR/Cas procedure enabled the Swedish Starch Manufacturers’ Association (Sveriges Stärkelseproducenter, Förening, SSF) with the collaboration of scientists from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) to develop a potato variety, within which the same gene for the production of amylose has been switched off as in the amflora potato. From 2019 to 2021, this starch potato is expected to be cultivated on 1500 hectare.

Article on the internet platform transGEN about the EU approval process for Amflora  Online Version (German)

Press release by the General Court of the European Union (2013) Online Version

Wird geladen