“Improving potato varieties is our company’s core business,” says Robert Graveland, HZPC’s Research Director. The Netherlands based company has focused on potato breeding, seed potato trading, and product concept development since 1898.
“We noticed we have not yet used many genetic variants. There is still a lot of potential in this.” To use this potential, speed and control are crucial, says Robert.
One way to speed up the process is to use gene-adaptation, for example, CRISPR-CAS. This alters a trait in an existing potato variety, ensuring a targeted mutation. That can, for instance, create resistance or make a variety salt or heat tolerant. Some laws in Europe define gene-editing legally as GMO.
That makes it impossible to bring these potatoes onto the market as conventional varieties in Europe.
Robert says in other regions, like the United States and Japan, mutations obtained by gene-editing are allowed on the market as common varieties.
He expects gene-editing to become available in Europe too eventually. However, he sees that the competitive fields outside Europe are advancing more rapidly. That means HZPC is moving its gaze outside of the Netherlands and Europe.
HZPC is currently gene-editing a new potato variety for America in its lab. But Robert does not exclude that similar initiatives could be developed elsewhere via service partners.