April 1997

Safety Assessment of Potatoes Resistant
to the Colorado Potato Beetle


Health Canada has notified Monsanto Canada Inc. that it has no objection to the food use of NewLeafTM potatoes developed by NatueMark, a unit of Monsanto Company. This new variety of potatoes has been genetically modified to be protected against the Colorado Potato Beetle (CPB) which is the major insect pest in Canada's potato agriculture.

Health Canada conducted a thorough assessment of CPB-resistant potatoes according to its Guidelines for the Safety Assessment of Novel Foods (September, 1994). These guidelines are based on internationally accepted principles for establishing the safety of foods derived from genetically modified organisms. Other government agencies, consumers and industry played a major part in developing the guidelines.

Four elements present in the CPB-resistant potatoes distinguish them from other potato varieties. These are two new genes (specific sequences of DNA which encode the traits of every living organism) isolated from bacteria, and the two proteins these new genes produce.

One gene produces a protein derived fromBacillus thuringiensis (Bt) subspeciestenebrionis which provides the protection

from CPB to these potato plants. The Bt family of insecticidal proteins are naturally occurring proteins which are included as the active insecticidal agent in certain commercial pest control products. These have been used safely for more than 30 years to control insect pests by home gardeners, organic growers and other farmers.

A second gene produces an enzyme, a biological marker, that allows researchers to identify the modified plants.

Health Canada reviewed the comparision of the CPB - resistant potatoes to other commercial potatoes (Russet Burbank) and found no difference in composition except for the two introduced proteins. These results and a thorough review of the development and production of the CPB-resistant potatoes demonstrate that the introduction of genetic information (DNA) into these potatoes to make them resistant to CPB does not result in any differences in the composition or nutritional quality of the potatoes. Health Canada has concluded that these potatoes are as safe and nutritious as other commercially available potato varieties.

This Health Canada opinion deals only with the food use of CPB-resistant potatoes. Issues related to growing these potatoes in Canada are being addressed separately through existing regulatory processes in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

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