French fries

They were here for a short while, but GMO potatoes have been out of the U.S. food market for more than a decade. But they may be making a return.

Monsanto’s Newleaf potatoes were on the market in the mid-’90s before consumer backlash forced all major fast-food chains to stop purchasing the GMO potato variety. One of the major suppliers to McDonald’s was Idaho’s J.R. Simplot Company.

Simplot is now back with a new variety of a GMO potato called Innate. It has submitted a request for “unregulated approval” from the USDA for its trademarked potato, which uses genetically modified potato DNA to reduce the dark spots that commonly appear on potatoes once they’ve been cut. As well, the company claims that when cooked, the patented potato would produce less of the neurotoxin acrylamide—which has been linked to cancer in animal studies.

The USDA’s APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) is expected to accept public comments on whether to grant approval of the potato for 60-days after Simplot’s petition is posted online (expected publication date was May 3).

APHIS states that Simplot has used DNA from wild potato varieties to create the changes in the Innate variety, and the company’s petition says the potatoes are “unlikely to pose a plant pest risk and, therefore, should not be a regulated article under APHIS’ regulations in 7 CFR part 340.”

According to Simplot’s website, “Innate makes it possible to enhance a potato plant’s desirable traits without introducing foreign genes into the plant.  Innate™ potatoes are less susceptible to black spot from bruising caused by impact and pressure during harvest and storage than conventional potatoes and have lower levels of asparagine and sugars.  These potatoes pose no environmental risk, create no harm to other species, and grow just like conventional potatoes in extensive field tests.”

But if at all like other GMO crops, Innate will most likely require excessive use of toxic pesticides, which do pose environmental risks, create harm to other species and inevitably lead to pesticide resistant insects and plants.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: j reed