FRANKFURT (Reuters) - BASF has applied for European Union approval for Fortuna, a potato genetically modified to resist a common plant disease, as the German chemicals company tries again to overcome resistance in the region to GM food.
The world's largest chemical maker by sales said on Monday it had asked for clearance for Fortuna, covering commercial cultivation and consumption by humans and animals.
In March 2010, BASF won European Commission approval for Amflora, another genetically modified potato, for commercial cultivation, marking the bloc's first GM cultivation approval in 12 years.
While Amflora was designed for industrial-starch production, Fortuna marks the first GM food plant BASF has sought to market in Europe, where consumers' opposition to such products remains widespread.
BASF said it expected market introduction in 2014 or 2015, even though it took BASF about 14 years to win clearance for Amflora. EU rules on the GM plant approval process have been streamlined since then, a company spokesman said.
The chemical maker is not publishing an annual peak sales assessment for the product for now, he added.
The company said its researchers made Fortuna resistant to late blight, the world's most damaging potato disease, which is caused by Phytophthora infestans, a fungi-like pathogen.
The plant disease, which was behind the mass starvation that ravaged Ireland in the 1840s, is cited by BASF as still causing the loss of up to 20 percent of the global potato harvest per year.
(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Erica Billingham)