“New Potatoes” of a GM variety

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved commercial planting of a potato that is genetically modified to resist bruising and to produce less of a chemical that has caused cancer in animals.

The USDA this month gave the Boise, Idaho-based company, J.R. Simplot Co. permission to begin commercial planting of its new spud, called the “Innate” potato. The company altered the potato’s DNA so it produces less acrylamide, which is suspected to be a human carcinogen. Potatoes naturally produce the chemical when they’re cooked at high temperatures.

The potato is also engineered to resist bruising, which can cause black spots in the potatoes, making them less desirable to buyers.

Simplot is a major supplier of french fries, hash browns and other potato products for restaurant chains like McDonald’s Corp. However, McDonald’s didn’t respond positively.

“McDonald’s USA does not source GMO potatoes, nor do we have current plans to change our sourcing practices,” the company said in a statement.

But Simplot didn’t create this GM potato product for McDonald’s – or any fast food restaurant for that matter. 

Simplot spokesman Doug Cole didn’t address the company’s plans to sell to the fast-food industry or the dehydrated potato industry, which both have urged growers against planting GMO potatoes. But Cole said the fresh potato market would embrace Innate.

The potato joins only eight other crops that have been USDA-approved for commercial production in the U.S.: corn (field and sweet), soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya and squash. This new option of growing GM potatoes shouldn’t be a scare to consumers. It is worth noting that no commercially available crops in the United States were created by nature alone. Humans, over our history, have altered all of our crops, often for taste or yield or disease resistance.

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