New Strain of GMO Potatoes Gets FDA Approval

GMO Potato Approved by FDA -- Would You Like GMO Fries with That?

The FDA has approved a new variety of GMO potatoes, developed by Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co. The genetically modified potato has been engineered to resist late blight, the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine and the number one pathogen for potato farmers around the world, according to Haven Barker, vice president of plant sciences at Simplot.

“We’re pleased and hope that consumers recognize the benefits once it’s introduced into the marketplace next year,” Doug Cole, the company’s director of marketing and communications, said Wednesday.

The potato, called the Russet Burbank Generation 2, is the second generation of Simplot’s Innate brand potatoes, so named because all of the genetically engineered traits come from other potatoes, unlike some genetically engineered foods, like the GMO salmon approved in 2015, which gets genes from other fish species.

The potato’s resistance against blight was engineered from an Argentinian variety of potato that naturally produced a defense against the pathogen. According to Baker, the development of this potato has the potential to reduce pesticide spray by 25 to 45 percent.

The next step for this potato before being marketed for consumption is clearance by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is expected to happen in December, according to the Associated Press.

The first generation Innate potato was engineered to reduce bruising in order to reduce waste and has been sold to consumers since 2014. The new version includes this trait, as well as a trait that allows it to be stored at colder temperatures longer, and a third trait that eliminates acrylamide, a potentially cancerous chemical present in potatoes that is activated at high temperatures.

Gary Hirshberg of Just Label It reacted to the announcement, stating that the approval of the potato only increased the need for labeling of GMO products in order to keep consumers informed. “With the previous approval of other GMO potatoes, the Arctic apple and AquAdvantage salmon—the first GMO animal approved for human consumption—GMO foods are no longer relegated to the processed food shelves,” he said in a statement.

McDonald’s, one of Simplot’s earliest business partners, has decided against using any GMO potatoes from the company.

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French fries image via Shutterstock

Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco