A genetically modified potato that has been developed by scientists in India could help fight against malnutrition in children.

A gene called AmA1 was added to ordinary potatoes to give them one third more protein than normal. The gene also ups the amount of the essential amino acids lysine and methionine contained in the potatoes. A lack of these amino acids can adversely affect children.

It is hoped that the “protato”, which has been developed by scientists at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, will play a part in India’s 15-year health improvement plan.

Supporters of the protein-rich potato are hopeful that its nutritional benefits will convince anti-GM campaigners that growing the “protato” is a good idea. Govindarajan Padmanaban, a biochemist at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, was reported by BBC Online as saying: “the potato doesn’t contain a pesticide gene… It’s a gene that improves nutrition, and it’s from another plant that is already eaten. Moreover, it’s not a known allergen.”

Campaigners say the potato should only be granted approval is it passes safety and environmental tests, reported BBC Online.