Impact of transgenic viral resistance on seed potato certification

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It was nearly 100 years ago that the decline in quality and yield observed in potato crops was attributed to the accumulation of pathogens in seed tubers saved from one field generation to the next. As a direct result of this realization, seed potato certification programs have been initiated throughout the world. While these programs have different administrative structures and employ various methodologies, they are all dedicated to the primary goal of producing a sufficient volume of high quality seed tubers as free from disease causing organisms as possible. Viral diseases are especially problematic because they have serious economic affects and their physical and biological properties make them difficult to control. Until recently, certification programs have relied on methodologies including the use of virus-free material obtained from tissue culture, strict adherence to practices that minimize the mechanical and insect spread of virus, physical inspection of seed increase plots to identify and minimize the number of virus-infected plants, and the increase of seed materials for only a limited number of years to insure that any infected materials are “flushed out” of the system. Approximately 10 years ago, it was first observed that virus resistance can be obtained by using transformation techniques to insert viral genes into the genome of plants. Subsequently, researchers in private and public laboratories have shown that potato plants produced in this way are highly resistant or immune to several viral diseases. The effect that the deployment of these materials may have on the seed potato certification process is the subject of this paper.

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