The Irish Potato Famine, which starved millions and brought many desperate immigrants to America, is now safely behind us. Or at least late blight, the disease that wiped out the Irish potato crop of 1846, won’t threaten three genetically engineered varieties of potato that won recent regulatory approval.
The Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet and the Atlantic, all genetically engineered against late blight by Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Company, won approval by the FDA and the U.S. EPA last week, after already getting the nod of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Simplot spokesperson Doug Cole said that the new varieties “have the same taste and texture and nutritional qualities” of unmodified potatoes.
The three are said to only carry potatoes genes, including the genes of an Argentine potato variety with a natural defense against late blight – a potato pathogen that even today threatens crops, especially in wetter environments.
In addition, these three new potatoes were genetically modified to reduce bruising and black spots in storage and to contain less of a potentially carcinogenic chemical that’s created when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures. The enhanced storage capabilities will also prove beneficial to the potato chip industry in reduced trucking costs, said the company.
Genetically modified organisms – or GMO – is a controversial practice. Many people refuse to buy or eat GMO products, and food companies such as McDonald’s have refused to use GMO potatoes for their French fries.
With the federal regulatory approval, J.R. Simplot Company can now offer their three new potatoes for planting this spring and harvesting in the fall.
This is the company’s second generation of GMO-approved products. The first, which is in stores, offered no protection against late blight. J.R. Simplot is now working on a third generation of modified potatoes.
By David Searls, Earth.com Staff Writer
Source: Associated Press