Storms & G M Potatoes

Well it just doesn’t let up, does it? Storm after storm. We used to say the British summer was two fine days and a thunderstorm but now the winter seems to be two days of storming and fine day.

Despite having 108mph gusts just 30 miles away from us in Aberdaron and Criccieth, which is just down the road, on the news with some poor reporter being pounded by wind and rain just to prove how bad it is, we’ve been fairly lucky.

Anything not tied down outside has gone travelling but apart from a few slates off the roof the house is OK. We’ve even (touch wood) escaped the power cuts. I think that’s because the lines got damaged last year and some poles were replaced, leaving us with a solid supply line.

Our daughter wasn’t so lucky, the power went out so they evacuated to Mum & Dad’s refugee centre. Little Gabriel, our grandson, found it all very exciting and decided there were far better things to do all night than sleep. His parents didn’t agree.

Despite not being hit badly and winter coming towards the end, we’re prepared for the worst. Freezers and store cupboards are well stocked, the gas tank has a couple of months supply in and there’s wood in store as well. We’ve even got a small generator if the power does go out.

The generator isn’t enough to run everything at once but enough to let the freezers cool down and power the central heating pump so the gas boiler works. The laptop doesn’t take much power and as our light bulbs go we’re replacing compact fluorescents with even lower energy LEDs. It’s amazing really, we used to think we were being frugal using a 60 watt bulb and now we’re using 3 watt bulbs in their place.

Mind you, if the power supply continues as it is we’re all going to be using electricity-free candles. Organic ones at that!

Late Potato Blight

Now here’s a dilemma for us all. In recent years the weather has been warm and wet which is good for blight and to add to the misery, various new strains of blight have developed. Even the Sarpo range of potatoes aren’t free of it, although they do pretty well.

The organic farmers find themselves taking more and more of a risk when they grow potatoes and ordinary farmers are spraying 15 times or more to defend the crop.

Now scientists from the Sainsbury Laboratory have taken a gene that makes potatoes blight resistant from a wild potato, presumably a South American one, and inserted it into the DNA of Desiree. This made the Desiree very blight resistant.

This is something that could probably be accomplished by normal breeding in a decade or so. Professor Jonathan Jones, of the Sainsbury Laboratory stated;

“Breeding from wild relatives is laborious and slow, and by the time a gene is successfully introduced into a cultivated variety the late blight pathogen may already have evolved the ability to overcome it”

Now this isn’t one of those GM crops designed to be immune to some weedkiller making spraying easy and very profitable all round for the multi-national chemical company.

There’s a clear benefit in that we get a blight resistant potato, reduced or eliminated spraying and chemicals on the potato and in the environment. It saves the farmer both labour and money which could reduce the cost in the shops.

Furthermore, it’s adding a gene from one potato to another, not some cross species Frankenstein hybrid with the danger of spreading into the wild with unforeseeable consequences.

But, and here’s the catch, the big US multi-nationals have been pushing at Europe’s door for years. Despite their big-money lobbying, the people of Europe (I don’t trust the bureaucrats one inch) have been holding the door shut. If we let this potato in, is it going to be the thin end of the wedge?

Or is it time to swap chemistry (sprays) for biology (resistance)?

What do you think?

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary, Rants and Raves
3 comments on “Storms & G M Potatoes
  1. dave lees says:

    John this is good news for all it should not have the greens up in arms after all nearly everything we grow has been manipulated by man and a good job it has
    Biggest worry I have this year will be slugs I live on the northeast coast and so far. We haven’t seen any frost my greenhouse has only been. Below zero once this winter

  2. tomphill says:

    I agree with the “thin end of the wedge” proposition. Once the gm principle is accepted the floodgates will be open and opposition will be futile.
    If you want an example in food terms then look at the banana industry, it is now almost 100% gm supply and other varieties are no longer grown. It is not possible to see consequences in the laboratory of gene manipulation over the long term.

  3. Garry Herbert says:

    What is the difference between grafting fruit stock and inserting a Gene from 1 variety of potato to another? Grafting has gone on for year’s and as far as I know , we all still only have one head. The world’s population is growing at an alarming rate and future generations will bear the brunt of food shortages. I am all for this type of modification. But I am against modification for profit.

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