Last week, the USDA approved a genetically engineered potato, known as the Innate Potato. Created and trademarked by Simplot, the new potato “has 40% less bruise” than regular potatoes and doesn’t turn brown after it’s cut, thereby reducing food wastage. It’s also lower in the amino acid asparagine, which oxidizes into a suspected human carcinogen when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures, such as when making french fries or potato chips. One of Simplot’s biggest customers is McDonald’s, and the company is already being lobbied by anti-GMO campaigners to not accept Simplot’s new offering, despite its touted benefits.
Simplot has apparently been working on the Innate potato for over a decade. As they explain in this video, the potatoes contain no “foreign” DNA, but only “genes from wild and cultivated potatoes.” The potatoes have been created using RNA interference technology. In addition to reducing food wastage, their chief selling point is that the potatoes also have lower levels of asparagine, which breaks down into acrylamide when heated above 120˚F (49˚C). Acrylamide is considered a “probable human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, among others.
However, Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist at the advocacy group Center for Food Safety, responded to the USDA’s approval in a statement: “If this is an attempt to give crop biotechnology a more benign face, all it has really done is expose the inadequacies of the U.S. regulation of GE crops. We simply don’t know enough about RNA interference technology to determine whether GE crops developed with it are safe for people and the environment.” The new potato would be the only GM potato commercially available in the United States. Monsanto tried to introduce a GM potato in the 1990s, but withdrew it from the market in 2001 due to poor consumer response.
It begs the questions though: with 93 percent of the U.S. soybean crop now GM and soy turning up in all manner of everyday food products, are GM French fries really going to be a deal breaker for regular McDonald’s customers? Conversely, is a french fry that may be less carcinogenic really going to be a selling point when the saturated fat content is also a killer? And though it’s not as in your face, while they were at it, the USDA quietly approved Monsanto’s GM alfalfa on Friday too.
Via The Guardian