Article image

New genetically engineered potatoes approved by USDA

Genetically engineered potatoes have been approved by U.S. Dept of Agriculture.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved two types of genetically engineered potatoes designed to resist the disease that caused the Irish potato famine. The two varieties included J.R. Simplot Co.’s Ranger Russet and second generation of Innate potatoes.

On an aesthetic level, the potatoes will have less exterior bruising and extended storage capacity. Less bruising will result in a predicted 15% decrease in waste, as the bruised potatoes don’t sell as easily.

But there is also an added health benefit to the new potatoes: when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures, it creates a chemical that’s a potential carcinogen. The genetically engineered potatoes, however, will release release much less of it.

Late blight is the official name of the disease that caused the infamous Irish potato famine, a pathogen that still remains a problem to this day. The genetically engineered potatoes will be resistant to late blight thanks to an Argentinian potato variety that naturally produces a defense.

Another added benefit is that the new potatoes will be able to be kept in cold storage for a longer duration. This, in turn, could be good news for the potato chip industry and save money on trucking costs.

Last year, J.R. Simplot Co. began selling the first generation of genetically engineered potatoes. While they sold over 40 million pounds in 35 different states, many consumers are still adamantly resistant to genetically modified foods. McDonald’s has refused to use genetically modified potatoes for french fries.

Simplot has been fighting the stigma with a marketing campaign featuring Olympic gold medalist and Boise resident Kristin Armstrong. The long-term effects of GM plants on human health and the environment are unknown.

Next, the potatoes will be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. J.R. Simplot Co. plans to have them on the market by next spring.

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day