BASF wants to trial GM potatoes in the UK.

German chemical company BASF has applied to the UK government for permission to conduct two field trials of genetically modified crops next year. 

BASF Plant Science announced its application to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on 23 August. The company plans to test potatoes it has developed with resistance against the fungal disease late blight.   

Late blight is estimated to cause global crop damage costing up to ?2 billion a year. The disease has a significant impact on UK food production, according to BASF chairman, Barry Stickings. ’The disease currently results in 5-10 per cent of the potato yield being lost each year, despite use of fungicides,’ said Stickings. 

If the application is approved, the crop will be planted next spring and harvested the following autumn. Field trials will be repeated over the next four years. Similar trials have been carried out in Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. 

Despite optimistic second quarter results released by BASF earlier this month, sales and earnings declined in the company’s Agricultural Products & Nutrition segment. The disappointing result was attributed partly to decreased demand for fungicides.