Traits and Genetics
U.S. approves three new types of potato
By The Associated Press
Three types of potatoes genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine are safe for the environment and safe to eat, federal officials announced.
The approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration late last week, gives Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co. permission to plant the potatoes this spring and sell them in the fall.
The company said the potatoes contain only potato genes and that the resistance to late blight, the disease that caused the Irish potato famine, comes from an Argentine variety of potato that naturally produced a defense.
There is no evidence that genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs, are unsafe to eat, but changing the genetic code of foods presents an ethical issue for some. McDonald’s declines to use Simplot’s genetically engineered potatoes for its french fries.
The three new varieties of potato — the Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet and Atlantic — have previously been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They “have the same taste and texture and nutritional qualities” as conventional potatoes, Simplot spokesman Doug Cole said.
The company said they will have reduced bruising and black spots, enhanced storage capacity and a lower amount of a chemical that’s a potential carcinogen and is created when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures.
Conventional potatoes can turn a dark color when cooked after they were kept cold for too long, a problem the new varieties reduce, the company said. Simplot also said the enhanced cold storage will likely have significant ramifications for the potato chip industry by reducing trucking costs.