Notification report

General information

Notification Number

Member State to which the notification was sent
United Kingdom

Date of acknowledgement from the Member State Competent Authority

Title of the Project
Development of new potato varieties with late blight resistance, reduced bruising and improved processing quality.

Proposed period of release:
01/06/2019 to 30/11/2021

Name of the Institute(s) or Company(ies)
The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich Research Park,
NR4 7UH;

3. Is the same GMPt release planned elsewhere in the Community?

Has the same GMPt been notified elsewhere by the same notifier?

Genetically modified plant

Complete name of the recipient or parental plant(s)
Common NameFamily NameGenusSpeciesSubspeciesCultivar/breeding line
potatosolanaceaesolanumsolanum tuberosumtuberosumMaris Piper

2. Description of the traits and characteristics which have been introduced or modified, including marker genes and previous modifications:
- Improved resistance to late blight (Phytophthora infestans) in most of the lines
- Improved resistance to potato cyst nematodes (PCN) in some of the lines
- Improved tuber quality in most of the lines (i.e., reduced browning and reduced potential for acrylamide formation and blackening upon cooking)
- Resistance to sulfonylureas and imidazolinones in all of the lines due to the selectable marker gene (only used for the in vitro selection of transformed plant cells).

Genetic modification

3. Type of genetic modification:
Insertion; Other;
In some cases, the genetic material inserted triggers the post-transcriptional silencing of endogenous genes.

In case of insertion of genetic material, give the source and intended function of each constituent fragment of the region to be inserted:
Most of the transgenic lines included in this application contain a stack of three plant resistance (R) genes against late blight (Rpi-vnt1.1, Rpi-amr3i and Rpi-amr1e). These lines also contain a gene-silencing module that improves tuber quality. It is designed to silence the polyphenol oxidase gene PPO and the vacuolar acid invertase gene Vlnv in a tuber-specific manner.

Some of the transgenic lines carry the Oc-I∆D86 cystatin gene and a gene coding for a repellent peptide. The expression of these genes is targeted to the plant root system and confers resistance against PCN.

Finally, all the transgenic plants proposed for release contain the CSR gene which confers resistance to some herbicides (sulfonylureas and imidazolinones). This trait will be only used for the in vitro selection of transgenic lines during tissue culture and these plants remain sensitive to other herbicides.

Details on the constituent fragments of the regions to be inserted are listed below:

- T-DNA borders (Agrobacterium tumefaciens) for insertion of genetic material into plant chromosomes.
- The CSR gene, which is an allele of the acetolactate synthase (ALS) gene from Solanum lycopersicum that confers resistance to sulfonylureas and imidazolinones in plant material. This gene is only used as selectable marker gene for in vitro selection of transformants and is regulated by its endogenous promoter and terminator sequences.
- Resistance gene Rpi-amr3i (S. americanum) with endogenous promoter and terminator sequences for improved resistance to P. infestans.
- Resistance gene Rpi-amr1e (S. americanum) with endogenous promoter and terminator sequences for improved resistance to P. infestans.
- Resistance gene Rpi-vnt1.1 (S. venturii) with endogenous promoter and terminator sequences for improved resistance to P. infestans.
- The Oc-I∆D86 gene, encoding a variant of the rice (Oryza sativa) cysteine proteinase inhibitor Oc-I for resistance to potato cyst nematodes. This gene is under the control of the root-specific regulatory sequences of the Arabidopsis thaliana ARSK1 gene.
- A gene encoding a repellent peptide of synthetic origin for resistance to potato cyst nematodes. The repellent is fused to a signal sequence from the Nicotiana plumbaginifolia calreticulin gene that favours its release from roots. This gene is under the control of the root-specific regulatory sequences of the Arabidopsis thaliana MDK4-20 gene.
- Sense and anti-sense sequences of the S. tuberosum polyphenol oxidase gene (PPO) combined with sense and anti-sense sequences of the S. tuberosum vacuolar acid invertase gene (Vlnv), both in between convergent tuber-specific promoters of the S. tuberosum ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase (Agp) and granule-bound starch synthase (Gbss) genes.

Terminator sequences included in this application are not related to any technology that prevents seed propagation of plants.

6. Brief description of the method used for the genetic modification:
Plasmid DNA was introduced into the potato lines by Agrobacterium-mediated gene transfer technology. This is standard technology for potato transformation.

7. If the recipient or parental plant is a forest tree species, describe ways and extent of dissemination and specific factors affecting dissemination:
Not applicable.

Experimental Release

1. Purpose of the release:
Since 2001, The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich has been working towards identifying, mapping and isolating resistance (R) genes from potato that confer resistance against potato late blight (P. infestans). This research has been publicly funded.

The genes identified are potentially valuable weapons in the fight against potato late blight as they confer resistance against many different isolates of this pathogen, including the strains which are currently responsible for major potato losses in the UK and Europe. Thus, there is a need to test these genes in a ‘real’ environment.

The R genes Rpi-vnt1.1, Rpi-amr3i and Rpi-amr1e have been transformed into Maris Piper potato as a three-gene stack in combination with a gene-silencing module conferring increased tuber quality (SLJ25057). Plants used as negative controls only carry the PCN resistance trait (SLJ24904). Lines transformed with SLJ25057 and SLJ24904 have been tested in the field in Norwich under consent 17/R29/01. Robust assessment of performance in the field normally requires testing the plants in different locations. The main goals of the proposed release are:

1) to further demonstrate that the transferred late blight resistance genes offer a valuable method for controlling late blight of potatoes which does not rely on agricultural inputs (pesticides);
2) to expose plants containing the newly identified genes to the local populations of late blight to confirm that they are indeed useful and capable of conferring resistance in different geographical locations;
3) to assess the agronomic performance and yield of the modified plants in comparison to wild-type Maris Piper plants subjected to standard fungicide sprays;
4) to harvest tubers for detailed assessment of potential for browning and cold-induced sweetening, as well as other relevant characteristics such us dry-matter content.

Even though some of the plants carry genes related to nematode resistance, this trait is not within the scope of the proposed trial.

2. Geographical location of the site:
The release sites will be:
1 (2019, 2020, 2021) Rothamsted Research, Brooms Barn (Ordnance Survey map grid reference TL 7565)
2 (2020, 2021) NIAB trial site Cambridge (Ordnance Survey map grid reference TL 4362)

3. Size of the site (m2):
2019 Approx. 1000 m2
2020 Approx. 2000 m2
2021 Approx. 2000m2

4. Relevant data regarding previous releases carried out with the same GM-plant, if any, specifically related to the potential environmental and human health impacts from the release:
Lines transformed with SLJ24904 and SLJ25057 have been tested in the field by The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich under consent 17/R29/01. Lines carrying SLJ24904 were used as negative controls in 2017 and 2018, while lines carrying SLJ25057 were tested in the field in 2018. As expected, they showed susceptibility and full resistance against late blight, respectively.

Monitoring during the release did not uncover any unexpected event or hazard and risk management procedures in place where deemed appropriate. Some of those lines, together with new lines generated with plasmid SLJ25057 will be tested under this consent if granted.

Environmental Impact and Risk Management

Summary of the potential environmental impact from the release of the GMPts:
Neither the resistance genes or gene-silencing module nor the selectable marker gene confer characteristics to the GM potato that would increase the competitiveness of plants containing the genes in unmanaged ecosystems. Neither would the introduced genes enable plants carrying them to out-compete plants of similar type for space. None of the transferred genes are anticipated to affect pollen production and fertility, seed dispersal or frost tolerance. Seeds and tubers, which might be spread outside cultivated fields, would have no competitive advantage in this environment. Potatoes are not persistent outside the agricultural environment and feral potato plants do not generally occur in the UK.

Through the measures that are taken during the release, distance from or absence of conventionally cultivated potatoes or wild species, the possibility of any gene transfer can be virtually ruled out. Even in the very improbable event that pollen was to be transferred to genetically unmodified potato plants, no consequences are to be expected, since potato propagation conventionally takes place via tubers and not via seeds.

Most of the lines included in this application carry late blight resistance (R) genes. Non-transgenic potato plants also contain many R genes, which are active against a wide range of potential pathogens. Many conventional potato varieties also contain additional R genes against P. infestans that have been introgressed from wild Solanum species. An intended effect of the introduced trait is increased survivability of the genetically modified potatoes exposed to P. infestans. This possible selective advantage, however, is of importance only in the agricultural field, and will not intrinsically improve the survivability in the surrounding environment.

Some of the transgenic lines included in this application carry genes coding for a cystatin and for a repellent peptide. The expression of these genes is targeted to the plant root system and confers resistance against PCN. Cystatins are present in many foods, e.g. rice seeds, maize kernels and chicken egg white, and the repellent to be used is not lethal to animals, but merely prevents plant parasitic species from invading roots. Resistance to PCN is not a characteristic that would enhance the invasiveness of potatoes. Further, there’s no evidence that PCN limit the distribution or abundance of wild Solanaceae in the UK.

The resistance traits to be expressed are predicted to affect only the target pathogens, P. infestans and PCN (if present). The expected environmental impact is negligible and will reduce the level of other agricultural inputs such as use of fungicides to control late blight in potato crops.

The gene-silencing module linked to the stack of late blight resistance genes is designed to modify tuber quality traits that are important in post-harvest management and processing of the potato tubers. They are not expected to affect the fitness of the plants in field conditions.

All the plasmids used to generate the plants included in this application carry an allele of the tomato acetolactate synthase (ALS) gene encoding a variant of the ALS enzyme that is resistant to inhibition by sulfonylureas and imidazolinones. Resistance to ALS-inhibiting herbicides is present in several commercially-available crops. This trait will be only used for the in vitro selection of transgenic lines during tissue culture. The plants remain sensitive to other herbicides such as glyphosate or glufosinate, which could readily be used to eliminate them in the field. In addition, sulfonylureas and imidazolinones will not be used in the context of this trial, so no selective advantage will be conferred to these plants.

Finally, in the unlikely event of backbone integration, no detrimental effect is expected from any of the elements in the vector backbone and no other emergent advantages or disadvantages are expected from the proposed combinations of genes and traits.

The interactions of the genetically modified potato lines with non-target organisms and the effects resulting from this will be comparable to those of conventional potato varieties. Due to a reduced need for fungal treatments, an increase in the populations of those non-target organisms that respond to fungal treatments might be expected. Similarly, the nematode resistance trait has been previously tested in the field. Works performed with similar transgenic lines established considerable advantages of this approach to soil micro-organisms relative to nematicide use, with no detrimental effects on non-target organisms and soil health.

No toxic or allergenic effects are expected from any of the additional proteins expressed in the transgenic lines proposed for release. Measures which are taken under current release practice will both protect the trial against damage by wild animals, and also ensure that seed stock and plant material are harvested, transported and disposed in a way that minimises or prevents contact with people or animals. No effects on biogeochemical processes are expected, other than those that apply also to non-genetically modified potatoes.

Brief description of any measures taken for the management of risks:
An isolation distance of 20 m to other potato crops will be observed.

The release site will be visited by trained personnel at approximately weekly intervals from planting to harvest in of each year of the trial. Any unexpected occurrences that could potentially result in adverse environmental effects or the possibility of adverse effects on human health will be notified to the national inspectorate immediately. Should the need arise to terminate the release at any point the emergency plans detailed below will be followed.

At the end of each season, all harvested material (plant tops and tubers) will be placed in sealed bags or containers and destroyed by deep burying or incineration/autoclaving. The plot will be left fallow and monitored for groundkeepers during the remainder of the year. Any volunteers identified will be immediately destroyed either by application of a systemic broadleaf herbicide or by hand pulling plants and digging out tubers/root systems. These will then be destroyed by deep burying or incineration/autoclaving. The monitoring of the plot for groundkeepers will be continued at monthly intervals for the duration of the three-year trial by walking the trial site.

Following completion of the three-year trial, the release site will remain fallow to enable easy identification of volunteers. The site will be inspected monthly between March and November (the growing season of potato) and any volunteers identified will be immediately destroyed either by hand pulling plants and digging out tubers/root systems followed by deep burying or incineration/autoclaving. If volunteers are found at the end of the two-year period, DEFRA recommendations will be followed for the management of the release site. Both raw data and reports of inspections of groundkeepers and volunteers will be maintained and provided to DEFRA. The cultivation of the release site after the monitoring programme has concluded will be according to local crop rotation practice for potatoes.

Emergency procedures: At any time point post planting, should the release need to be terminated, any plant material will be sprayed with an appropriate systemic broadleaf herbicide and tubers dug up by fork and hand and transferred to an authorised waste facility for disposal by deep burying or incineration/autoclaving. Should the release site be subject to vandalism, care will be taken to ensure that all uprooted plant material within and outside of the trial site is identified and destroyed accordingly as described above.

Summary of foreseen field trial studies focused to gain new data on environmental and human health impact from the release:
Not applicable.

Final report

European Commission administrative information

Consent given by the Member State Competent Authority:
Not known