by Marion Nestle
Sep 1 2015

GM potato approved for production

On Friday, the USDA announced that it approved production of “Innate” potatoes, genetically modified by the Simplot company to

  • Resist blight
  • Store longer at cold temperatures
  • Not turn brown when cooked
  • Produce less acrylamide

The official Federal Register notice is published here.

Earlier this year, the FDA “completed its consultation” with Simplot:

Simplot’s varieties of Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank and Atlantic potatoes are collectively known by the trade name “Innate” and are genetically engineered to reduce the formation of black spot bruises by lowering the levels of certain enzymes in the potatoes.

In addition, they are engineered to produce less acrylamide by lowering the levels of an amino acid called asparagine and by lowering the levels of reducing-sugars. Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, and has been found to be carcinogenic in rodents.

These sound like useful traits.  According to the Simplot video (worth watching), the company is proud of having produced a “better, more sustainable potato.”

Questions:

  • Will Simplot voluntarily label its potatoes as genetically modified with enhanced characteristics?  There is precedent for doing so.  In the early 1990s, Calgene intended to do just that with its GM tomatoes (but the tomatoes failed in production and Monsanto bought the company).
  • Will McDonald’s use Innate potatoes for its French Fries?
  • Will supermarkets carry them?

I will be watching this one with great interest.

  • HMT PhD

    Answers to Marion’s questions (whimsically arranged in reverse order)

    3) I understand these potatoes have already been successfully test marketed in supermarkets. It depends, I imagine, on the tactical efficacy of anti-GMO crusaders to impose their will upon supermarket chains…and upon American consumers in so doing. Almost certainly WholePaycheck will not be stocking them. That should be enough for purists, but don’t hold your breath

    2) I’ve read McDonalds has, perhaps a year ago or more, been cowed into stating it will not be using this variety of potato. Why McDonalds would cave in to demands from people who would never eat there anyway is something of a mystery. A lot of other food chains have not made that commitment, but they are perhaps lower down the list to be targeted by anti-GMO crackpots. All in due time the Luddites will get around to them, we can rest assured

    1) I rather doubt Simplot does any significant amount of retail marketing where one would find the celebrated mandatory nutrition labeling ready and waiting to be defaced with a ridiculous “contains GMO” statement. Simplot certainly has not been secretive or even shy about its accomplishments. They seem at least as keen to promote their product and its provenance as was Calgene, so I’m not clear how that amounts to “a precedent” for food producers, any more than your career, Dr. Nestle, is precedent setting for aspiring scientists. To paraphrase: ‘In the early 1960s Dr. Nestle intended serious science, but she failed in the rigor and was bought by CSPI. Perhaps your proteges consider that precedent setting. Too bad for them.

  • mausium

    “Why McDonalds would cave in to demands from people who would never eat there anyway is something of a mystery.”

    Because ignorant fearmongers still have a lot of sway, a large number of persons are still influenced by sheer force of will and personality cult (ala “foodbabe”) over facts.

  • The innate potato had genes modified by switching genes off. No genes from other species were inserted. I wonder if GMO labeling would specify what type of gene modification was used. This is a gene modification that would not bother me.

  • RAndrewOhge

    Dear Marion,

    I re-posted this with some additional data added for those who haven’t followed this story. I gave appropriate links and attributions, as well. Here’s the copy of what I posted:

    GM Potato Approved For Production

    By Marion Nestle | Sept 01, 2015

    On Friday, the USDA announced that it approved production of “Innate” potatoes, genetically modified by the Simplot company to:

    1. Resist blight

    2. Store longer at cold temperatures

    3. Not turn brown when cooked

    4. Produce less acrylamide

    The official Federal Register notice is published here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2014-0076

    Earlier this year [http://www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/pressannouncements/ucm439121.htm], the FDA “completed its consultation” with Simplot:

    Simplot’s varieties of Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank and Atlantic potatoes are collectively known by the trade name “Innate” and are genetically engineered to reduce the formation of black spot bruises by lowering the levels of certain enzymes in the potatoes.

    Video Link: https://youtu.be/D8hTilAjcdI

    In addition, they are engineered to produce less acrylamide by lowering the levels of an amino acid called asparagine and by lowering the levels of reducing-sugars.

    Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, and has been found to be carcinogenic in rodents.

    These sound like useful traits.

    According to the Simplot video: http://www.simplotplantsciences.com/ (worth watching), the company is proud of having produced a “better, more sustainable potato.”

    Questions:

    1. Will Simplot voluntarily label its potatoes as genetically modified with enhanced characteristics?

    There is precedent for doing so.

    In the early 1990s, Calgene intended to do just that with its GM tomatoes (but the tomatoes failed in production and Monsanto bought the company).

    2. Will McDonald’s use Innate potatoes for its French Fries?

    3. Will supermarkets carry them?

    Despite the positive reviews from authorities, consumer and environmental activists have been opposing the new crop, insisting that genetically modified food may have potential dangers which are as of yet undisclosed.

    According to Greg Jaffe, Director of the Project on Biotechnology for the Center for Science in the Public Interest:

    “Congress should pass legislation that requires new biotech crops to undergo a rigorous and mandatory approval process before foods made from those crops reach the marketplace.

    Such a system would give consumers much greater confidence that all genetically engineered products have been independently reviewed and found to be safe.”

    The FDA has been accused of using words and phrases that sound more like the company’s conclusion than their own.

    In particular, the letter to Okanagan says: “It is our understanding” that Okanagan “has concluded” that the apples do not differ much in safety and nutrition from other apples.

    Some apple growing companies, processors and exporters have already expressed their concerns that the GM apple will spoil the fruit’s image and deter customers.

    On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture held a hearing on GMO Labeling.

    The open letter is signed by celebrities, scientists, farmers, academics in various fields, business tycoons, and every day people like you and me.

    It’s called the letter from America, but it is getting global attention.

    No longer can Americans be called sheeple.

    We are clearly voicing or disdain for GM crops in ever growing numbers, and our eyes are wide open.

    As war wages over the genetic modification of the food supply, mega biotech companies have already begun launching campaigns to release millions of GMO insects in the Florida Keys region that have been cross-bred with the herpes simplex virus and E. coli bacteria. ”

    This is the rising sentiment among farmers of the US as a confluence of factors urges them to become pro-organic.

    From falling GMO grain prices to a rising tide of public distrust of genetically modified ingredients, failing GMO traits, higher GMO seed prices, and the premium prices that people willingly pay for quality food over toxic junk, the conventional farmer is changing his tune when it comes to Big Ag practices. mega biotech — and the time is now to demand real testing and action.

    Or at least answers as to why the US State Department is paying for Monsanto’s marketing materials like DVDs and threatening other countries who reject their GMO crops.

    I will be watching this one with great interest.

    https://youtu.be/D8hTilAjcdI

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  • pawpaw

    Nestle shares an issue, says she will be watching with interest. Seems like an open, inquiring mind. The kind I was trained to have when earning my PhD. Where the focus was on analyzing ideas, not criticizing the people who shared them.

  • Sackshi Gupta

    Food should not be a subject of politics and have an equated value should be the concern.

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