Background information and relevant results

Romania is the second potato grower in the EU with a total area of around 250,000 hectares each year. Yields are drastically affected by pathogens and pests. The most harmful insect pest for potato is the Colorado beetle; this pest has two or even three generations per year in Romania. Taking into consideration the economic importance of the crop, a research project was started at the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Banat, Timişoara, with the aim of obtaining several Romanian potato varieties resistant to Colorado beetle through transgenesis. Redsec and Coval varieties belonging to Târgul Secuiesc Research Station have been transformed with the Bacillus thuringiensis Cry3A gene which encodes the insect-active protein and epsps marker gene for glyphosate resistance. Almost a 1000 plants were regenerated and tested. Results of ELISA analysis showed that all the transformed lines expressed Cry3A proteins. The best 20 lines for each variety were selected and propagated in the greenhouse. The presence of the transgene in these lines was confirmed by PCR. The stability of the trait was evaluated by bioassays with sensitive coleopteran insects, Leptinotarsa decemlineata.

Stage of Development

Greenhouse and lab assays. Awaiting for field trial permission.

Reasons for Delay

According to the Romanian legislation represented by Law 214/2002, the Ministry of Environment grants permits for deliberate release into the environment of GMOs with the prior consent of several central government l authorities. The Ministry of Agriculture, as one the central authorities involved, did not grant permission for a potato field trial without providing any explanation. The research project was blocked.  The law does not contemplate deadlines in its permit granting procedure. Following several petitions submitted to the Ministry of Environment, it was stated that the Ministry of Agriculture had not issued their consent and therefore a permit could not be granted. Moreover, according to the Romanian regulatory framework, public institutions and private companies have to pay taxes and fees when submitting application files for deliberate release of GMOs. The estimated fee is €1,000  per location and per event. Such costs are prohibitive for public institutions such as Universities.

Although Romanian scientists obtained GM potato lines with the potential for market release, these will never reach the market in the present policy climate and legislation.

Foregone Benefits

The cultivation of genetically modified potato for resistance to Colorado beetle, the Bt potato, would enable the protection of crops with sharply limited use of insecticides, resulting in beneficial effects on the environment, production costs and human health. A study on the likely economic impact suggests that the application of potato Bt technology in Romania would save up to US$ 10 million, of which US$ 4 million would represent the cost savings on insecticides alone (Otiman et al., 2004).

Cost of Research

Approximately US$110,000 (first project) and €70,000 (second project).

References to project

Badea, E., Mihacea, S., Franţescu, M., Botău, D., Mike, L., Nedelea, G. (2004). Results concerning the genetic transformation of two Romanian potato varieties using the cryIIIA gene with induced resistance to Colorado Beetle attack. In: Proceed. of European Association for Potato Research, Agronomy Section Meeting Mamaia, Romania, 26-34.

Badea, E., Ciulcă, S., Mihacea, S., Danci, M., Cioroga, A., Petolescu, C. (2008). Study of agronomical characters of some potato lines genetically modified for resistance to Colorado beetle attack. The 17th Triennial Conference of the European Association for Potato Research (EAPR) Brasov, Romania, 413-417.

Principal Investigator

Badea Elena, Institute of Biochemistry, Bucharest, Romania

Additional references

Otiman, P.I., Salasan, C., Mihacea, S. (2004). Results concerning the economic impact of Bt technology utilization in potato culture in Romania. International Symposium EAPR Agronomy Meeting „Development of the potato crop production in the Central and East – European countries”, Romania, 228-233.

Frantescu, M., Mihacea, S., Holobiuc, I., Badea, E., Nedelea. G. (2003). Genetic transformation in potato Romanian cultivars using constructs with marker genes, Proceedings of the Institute of Biolog – Suppl. of Revue Roumain de Biologie, vol. V, 485 – 494.

Kamenova, I., Batchvarova, R., Flasinski, S., Dimitrova, L., Christova, P., Slavov, S., Atanassov, A., Kalushkov, P., Kaniewski, W. (2008). Transgenic resistance of Bulgarian potato cultivars to the Colorado potato beetle based on Bt technology. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 28. Available online at:

Perlak, F.J., Stone, T.B., Muskopf, Y.M., Petersen. L.J., Parker, G.B., McPherson, S.A., Wyman, J., Love, S., Reed, G., Biever, D., Fischhoff, D.A. (1993). Genetically improved potatoes: protection from damage by Colorado potato beetles, Plant Mol. Biol. 22, 313–321.