What is so special about this new potato? The DNA has been altered to do two specific things. It reduces the chemical called acrylamide, which is produced when potatoes are fried. It also resists bruising better than a typical potato. Many potato growers and manufacturers lose stock when potatoes bruise and becomes unusable.
Potatoes are the latest on the list of genetically modified foods that aim to assist farmers and consumers alike. The idea of a non-bruising potato came from the idea of the non-browning apple. This keeps food better longer for the consumer.
The approval comes on the heels of ballots with initiatives in Oregon and Colorado demanding that foods made with genetically modified foods be labeled. Manufacturers fought hard to defeat the initiatives, showing there is still much animosity for the GMO foods between consumers and manufacturers.
Monsanto has ventured into this realm before in the 1990’s, when they created a potato that was resistant to the Colorado potato beetle. In that case, consumers won the battle. Manufacturers feared consumer fall-out and convinced farmers not to seed the potatoes.
Simplot hopes that the possible health benefit will create a different outcome in this situation. And it thinks it’s on the right track because they are already preparing more potatoes for approval. One of them resists late blight, which is the potato disease that was responsible for the Irish potato famine.
Their methods are also thought to be closer to “natural.” Simplot doesn’t use bacteria inserted in the DNA to get its desired results. It uses potato DNA to “silence” other natural potato genes. “We are trying to use genes from the potato plant back in the potato plant,” says Haven Baker, head of Simplot’s potato development.
Even though it reduces the chemical that causes cancer in lab rats by 50 to 75%, no one can really gauge how much of a benefit this actually will be (potatoes are also one of the fruits and vegetables recommended to be purchased organic due to the amount of pesticides used). So, the question is will consumers accept this latest drive into the GMO potato world, or balk even with the possible benefits? It answer remains to be seen.
(Photo courtesy of Elisa)
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