Genetically Modified Potato Given Approval From US Department Of Agriculture

gmo-potato

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday approved a genetically modified potato, altered to resist bruising and to provide potential health benefits.

Called the Innate potato, produced by J.R. Simplot Co., it would be the first genetically modified potato in the U.S. in more than 10 years. A GMO potato developed by Monsanto Co. was taken off the market in the early 2000s after farmers and consumers showed little interest.

“This approval comes after a decade of scientific development, safety assessments and extensive field tests,” J.R. Simplot said in a statement. The Boise, Idaho, agribusiness company is a major producer of french fries.

The USDA examined whether the potato posed a threat to other plants. Its safety for human consumption is being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. J.R. Simplot, like other companies that develop genetically modified crops, voluntarily submitted its product to the FDA, and company spokesman Doug Cole said it expects FDA clearance in coming weeks.

The Innate potato uses genes from cultivated or wild potatoes to achieve its new traits, hence the traits are “innate,” Mr. Cole said. It was engineered to reduce black spots from bruising, a common reason why potatoes can’t be marketed. It also has been designed to produce lower levels of acrylamide, a potential carcinogen that forms in potatoes and other starchy foods when they are cooked at high temperatures.

That puts it among the first genetically modified crops to offer a direct benefit to consumers. Nearly all other modified crops, such as corn and soybeans, are made to withstand pesticides, making it easier for farmers to grow them.

J.R. Simplot plans to roll out three varieties of the genetically modified potato, the Ranger Russet and Russet Burbank, used for french fries and everyday use by consumers, and the Atlantic, which is used mostly for chips.

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U.S. Approves First Gene-Altered Apples

GMO APPLE

The government on Friday approved the commercial planting of genetically engineered apples that are resistant to turning brown when sliced or bruised.

The developer, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, says it believes the nonbrowning feature will be popular with both consumers and food service companies because it will make sliced apples more appealing. The feature could also reduce the number of apples discarded because of bruising.

But many executives in the apple industry say they worry that the biotech apples, while safe to eat, will face opposition from some consumers, possibly tainting the wholesome image of the fruit that reputedly “keeps the doctor away.” They are also concerned that it could hurt exports of apples to countries that do not like genetically modified foods.

“In the marketplace we participate in, there doesn’t seem to be room for genetically modified apples now,” said John Rice, co-owner of Rice Fruit Company in Gardners, Pa., which bills itself as the largest apple packer in the East.

The Department of Agriculture, which approved the apples for commercial planting, said on Friday that it had considered these issues. However, it said that under the law, approval is based on whether a genetically modified crop poses a threat to other plants. The department determined that the apples posed no such risk.

The so-called Arctic apples — which will be available in the Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties — are genetically engineered in a way to suppress the production of an enzyme that causes browning when cells in the apple are injured, from slicing, for example.

But over time the apples will still rot and turn brown. In November, the Agriculture Department approved a genetically engineered potato developed by the J.R. Simplot Company that uses a similar technique to prevent browning.

The apple will join relatively few other examples of genetically modified fresh produce, including papaya and some sweet corn. Most of the genetically modified food Americans eat is processed, containing ingredients made from engineered corn or soybeans.

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