• Open Access

Safety assessment of nonbrowning potatoes: opening the discussion about the relevance of substantial equivalence on next generation biotech crops

Authors

  • Briardo Llorente,

    1. Instituto de Investigaciones en Ingeniería Genética y Biología Molecular, CONICET and FCEyN, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
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  • Guillermo D. Alonso,

    Corresponding author
    1. Instituto de Investigaciones en Ingeniería Genética y Biología Molecular, CONICET and FCEyN, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
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  • Fernando Bravo-Almonacid,

    1. Instituto de Investigaciones en Ingeniería Genética y Biología Molecular, CONICET and FCEyN, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
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  • Vanina Rodríguez,

    1. Instituto de Investigaciones en Ingeniería Genética y Biología Molecular, CONICET and FCEyN, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
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  • Mariana G. López,

    1. Instituto de Biotecnología, Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agrícola, Castelar, Argentina
    2. Partner group of the Max Planck Institute of Plant Molecular Physiology, Postdam-Golm, Germany
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  • Fernando Carrari,

    1. Instituto de Biotecnología, Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agrícola, Castelar, Argentina
    2. Partner group of the Max Planck Institute of Plant Molecular Physiology, Postdam-Golm, Germany
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  • Héctor N. Torres,

    1. Instituto de Investigaciones en Ingeniería Genética y Biología Molecular, CONICET and FCEyN, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
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  • Mirtha M. Flawiá

    1. Instituto de Investigaciones en Ingeniería Genética y Biología Molecular, CONICET and FCEyN, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
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(Tel 54 11 4783 2871; fax 54 11 4786 8578; e-mail galonso@dna.uba.ar)

Summary

It is expected that the next generation of biotech crops displaying enhanced quality traits with benefits to both farmers and consumers will have a better acceptance than first generation biotech crops and will improve public perception of genetic engineering. This will only be true if they are proven to be as safe as traditionally bred crops. In contrast with the first generation of biotech crops where only a single trait is modified, the next generation of biotech crops will add a new level of complexity inherent to the mechanisms underlying their output traits. In this study, a comprehensive evaluation of the comparative safety approach on a quality-improved biotech crop with metabolic modifications is presented. Three genetically engineered potato lines with silenced polyphenol oxidase (Ppo) transcripts and reduced tuber browning were characterized at both physiological and molecular levels and showed to be equivalent to wild-type (WT) plants when yield-associated traits and photosynthesis were evaluated. Analysis of the primary metabolism revealed several unintended metabolic modifications in the engineered tubers, providing evidence for potential compositional inequivalence between transgenic lines and WT controls. The silencing construct sequence was in silico analysed for potential allergenic cross-reactivity, and no similarities to known allergenic proteins were identified. Moreover, in vivo intake safety evaluation showed no adverse effects in physiological parameters. Taken together, these results provide the first evidence supporting that the safety of next generation biotech crops can be properly assessed following the current evaluation criterion, even if the transgenic and WT crops are not substantially equivalent.

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