Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan are together one of the world’s leading agricultural producers – Russia alone produces over 10% of the world’s potatoes. However, the potential potato crop is almost halved due to factors such as weediness, viruses, cold winters and dry summers. Another cause of major losses is the Colarado beetle, an invasive species native to North America. The vast majority of Russian farmers have no access to insecticides, so the beetle does billions of dollars worth of damage each year.
A recent review from the Russian Academy of Sciences explains how Russia is tackling some of these problems with GM crops.
Scientific work over the past 15 years has led to the creation of GM potato varieties resistant to herbicides, pests, fungal and viral diseases in Russia. Colorado beetle resistant potato varieties have also passed all safety trials. They are considered by the Russian authorities to be as safe as traditional varieties and have been registered for food use.
Another major crop in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan is sugar beet. Over half of sugar beet cultivation costs are from weed control, but weediness still leads to yields being reduced by a quarter, with further losses caused by viruses. To tackle the problem of weediness, the Russian Academy of Sciences has created GM sugar beet lines that are tolerant to herbicides. They are now developing lines resistant to viruses.
The paper says:
“The application of the potato varieties and sugar beet lines obtained allows improved reliability, profitability and simplicity of plant cultivation. It will also provide considerable, positive ecological effects and will reduce health risks of both producers and consumers.”
What do you think?
Skryabin (2010) Do Russia and Eastern Europe need GM plants? New Biotechnology