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A slight difference and significant similarities

There is little difference between the composition of the genetically produced potatoes known as fructan potatoes and that of conventionally bred varieties. They only differ in the new substances intentionally incorporated with gene technology. This conclusion has been reached by scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology and their colleagues from the University of Wales in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS, Online Early Edition, September 19). The scientists used a method developed at the Institute to identify substances in plants.

The researchers compared genetically modified Desire potatoes, which have a very high level of the polysaccharide inulin, with five conventional varieties. Inulin is a sugar in the class of fructans, i.e. polysaccharides, composed of fructose (fruit sugar). The normal starch is made of glucose. Nutritionally, fructans are classed as fiber and have a beneficial effect on human intestinal flora.

The main results of the study showed that substances in the Agria, Dsire, Granola, Linda and Solara varieties exhibit a surprising range of variation. The genetically modified lines from the Dsire variety lie within the same of range of variation as the five conventional varieties. The exception is the higher content of inulin polysaccharides. There was no evidence of any new, unexpected substances.

Inulin is a polysaccharide that is formed as a storage molecule in many plants such as chicory, artichokes and dandelions. Two different genes for the formation of inulin sugars were introduced into the potato as these polysaccharides have a beneficial effect on human intestinal flora and are therefore a very desirable nutritional component. Potatoes containing inulin were developed at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam as early as 2000. The properties of these new fructan potatoes were investigated from 2001 to 2004 by the resea
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Contact: Prof. John Draper, Dr. Manfred Beckmann
meb@aber.ac.uk
44-1-970-62-2340
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
26-Sep-2005


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