Blight-resistant, genetically-modified potato drawing interest from P.E.I. farmers
'It's something like we've never seen before'
Some Island farmers are excited about a new genetically-modified potato that's designed to resist late blight, which could mean spraying less fungicide.
The CFIA and Health Canada recently approved growing the Innate generation 2 potato, developed by the U.S.-based company J.R. Simplot.
Generation 1 of the potatoes were less likely to bruise or go grey when peeled, but potato farmer Ray Keenan, owner of Rollo Bay Holdings, is much more excited about this blight resistant variety.
"It's amazing science, is what it is. It's something like we've never seen before in the potato industry," said Keenan.
"It's two things. It's a cost saving but it's also simply good stewardship if we could find a way of making this work."
Rollo Bay Holdings grows more than 400 hectares of potatoes, and can spray fungicide as often as 15 times a year in order to combat blight. J. R. Simplot believes fungicide spraying could be cut in half with its potato, and that could save Keenan hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from his pesticide bill.
While the potatoes are genetically-engineered, there are only potato genes — from a mix of wild and cultivated varieties — used in the process.
Simplot plans to sell the seed at a cost on par with conventional seed initially, and then increase the price as time goes on and farmers see the cost savings from lower pesticide use.
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With files from Laura Chapin