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Get set for potatoes high on protein

delhi Updated: Sep 21, 2010 01:23 IST
Anika Gupta
Anika Gupta
Hindustan Times
Anika Gupta

Move over, unhealthy French fries. Indian scientists have genetically modified the world's most popular vegetable to make it more nutritious.

“Potato is a staple food in many countries,” Subhra Chakraborty, one of the researchers, told HT. “But the problem is that it does not have much protein.”

Scientists at the New Delhi-based National Institute of Plant Genome Research took a gene from the edible amaranth plant and introduced the gene to seven commercial varieties of potatoes. The transgenic potatoes look like regular potatoes but contain a well-rounded mix of proteins.

The scientists tested the potato plants at three locations in India and found that they gave a bigger harvest. Tests revealed these potatoes had no negative effects on the animals' health.

The results appear this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

With field trials over, the scientists say the transgenic potato is ready for commercial cultivation. "We have passed one layer of regulatory approval and there will be another," Chakraborty said.

It's unclear whether the regulatory body, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) will okay the potato.

The environment ministry halted plans for bt brinjal cultivation earlier. The transgenic potato might escape Bt brinjal's fate, in part because the modified potato has a gene from an edible plant. In the case of Bt brinjal, the introduced gene was from a non-edible source. "The objection before should not be there in this case," said V.S. Chauhan, director of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.