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.