GM Potato Varieties Approved by U.S.*
By Doug Harris
* The three new potato varieties — the Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet, and Atlantic — were approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration, according to the Associated Press. They were previously cleared by the U.S. Agriculture Department.
* In addition to being resistant to the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine, killing a million people in Ireland in the 1840’s, they are less liable to bruise or develop black spots. The potatoes also have better storing capabilities and create a lower amount of a potential carcinogen when they are cooked at high temperatures.
* The new strains, to be planted this spring and marketed in the fall, use 50% less fungicide to cut the pest population in potato fields. They “have the same taste and texture and nutritional qualities” as conventional potatoes, Simplot spokesman Doug Cole said.
The new potato varieties are the latest variety to gain approval from the U.S. government. The approvals apply to the second-generation of potatoes from Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co. The first generation, which received final approval about two years ago, didn’t include protection from late blight or enhanced cold storage. So far, McDonald’s has decided not to use Simplot’s genetically engineered potatoes for its French fries.
Despite their initial reluctance, it may not be surprising if McDonald’s and other potato users rethink their stance on the spud. Research shows Simplot’s fries contain 14% to 27% more potato solids and less water than many other varieties, making it possible to serve more people per case of fries. The chance to serve potatoes that last longer and result in less food waste also could be enticing.
Opponents of genetically modified crops have expressed concern about the safety of the crops even though the FDA has shown no difference between these varieties and their traditional counterparts. Still, those ongoing concerns could continue to minimize growth of the promising food technology.
Analysts estimated the GMO food market has increased in recent years because of the nutritional value those items offer, according to Research Nester. The global GMO food market will rise at a compound annual growth rate of 3.2% by the end of 2021.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents Kellogg, PepsiCo and other food and beverage companies, estimates that as much as 80% of packaged foods contain genetically modified ingredients.
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