Researchers in India have developed a genetically modified potato that is packed with up to 60 per cent more protein and increased levels of amino acids.
In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Tuesday, the scientists expressed hope that the transgenic potato would find more acceptance because it uses a gene from the amaranth seed, another edible crop.
"Because potato constitutes an important part of the diet of many people in developed as well as developing countries, it is apparent that this can add value to potato-based products with enhanced benefits for better human health," they wrote.
Amaranth is a tall, broadleaf plant that produces tiny seeds. It was a major food of the Aztecs and earlier American cultures, and started to be grown as a grain crop in the United States in the late 1970s.
One of its genes, Amaranth Albumin 1 (AmA1), is regarded as agriculturally important because it endows the plant and its seeds with high protein levels and higher concentrations of several essential amino acids.
Led by Subhra Chakraborty at the National Institute of Plant Genome Research in New Delhi, the scientists inserted the gene into seven types of potatoes and then grew the transgenic potatoes over two years.
They found that the transgenic potatoes contain between 35 and 60 percent more protein than unmodified potatoes. They also contain increased levels of amino acids, notably lysine and tyrosine, which are usually limited in potatoes.
These had been fed to rats and rabbits with no adverse consequences, the scientists said.
More than a billion people worldwide consume potatoes daily.
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