Amflora, known also as EH92-527-1, is a genetically modified potato developed by BASF Plant Science. Amflora potato plant produces pure amylopectin starch that is processed to waxy potato starch. Amflora was approved for industrial applications in the European Union market on March 2, 2010 by the European Commission.

It was originally registered on August 5, 1996. Amflora was developed by geneticist Lennart Erjefalt and agronomist Juri Kano of Svalof Weibull AB.

Because of the lack of acceptance of GM crops within Europe, BASF Plant Science decided in 2012 to stop its commercialization and research activities on the European potato varieties Amflora and Fortuna. It announced the relocation of corporate headquarters from Germany to the USA.

Regular potato starch contains two constituent types of molecules: amylopectin, which is more useful as a polymer for industry, and amylose which often produces issues as starch retro gradation and therefore must be modified with chemical reactions that cost money.

After two decades of research efforts, BASF’s biotechnologists utilizing genetic engineering succeeded in producing a potato, named Amflora, where the gene held responsible for the synthesis of amylose has been turned off, therefore the potato is unable to synthesize the less desirable substance, amylose.

Amflora plans to be processed and sold as starch to industries that have a preference for waxy potato starch with only amylopectin. Amflora is intended only for industrial applications as papermaking and other technical applications. Europe produces more than two million metric tons of natural potato starch per year, and BASF with its Amflora product hopes to enter into this large market.

According to New York Times, BASF has a second application pending for the usage of Amflora’s potato pulp as animal feed.

Amflora couldn’t be sold in the European Union without approval, and the license could only be given after voting at the Council of Ministers of the European Union with a 74 percent threshold of support. Two rounds of voting were carried, initially by experts in December 2006 and then by the agricultural ministers in July 2007, but both failed to reach the 74 percent threshold. Although the voting was by secret ballot, it was claimed by New York Times that Amflora was supported by the agricultural ministers of Belgium and Germany, and was opposed by the agricultural ministers of Italy, Austria, and Ireland, while the agricultural ministers of France and Bulgaria preferred to refrain from voting.

After the license was given on March 2, 2010, BASF announced its intention to ask for approval of more varieties of genetically modified potatoes, such as the Fortuna potato.

Image Caption: Amflora. Credit: BASFPlantScience/Wikipedia(CC BY 2.0)