Second generation GMO potato awaiting approval

potatesA second generation genetically modified potato that has been engineered to resist the pathogen that led to the Irish potato famine, is now awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Known as the Russet Burbank, the potato has also been modified to be stored for longer and at cooler temperatures to help reduce food waste, a recent article states. Other benefits include reduced bruising and a greater reduction in acrylamide, a chemical produced when potatoes are cooked or fried at high temperatures, which has been linked to cancer.

These characteristics were originally developed for the first generation GM potato, called White Russets, which were released about a year ago and sold out of the planted 400 acres in grocery stores in 10 states across the Midwest and Southeast last summer, the article states.

The new Russet Burbank still needs approval from the FDA and the EPA, which the producing company believes it will receive within a year, and it would begin commercial planting in 2017. The potatoes would be ready for consumers that fall.

“There are clear benefits for everybody, and it’s just a potato,” Haven Baker, vice president of plant sciences at Simplot, the company producing the potato, said in the article. Baker also explained that the potato’s modifications were made by silencing existing genes or adding genes from other types of potatoes.

Resistance to late blight, the cause of the Irish potato famine which still remains a $5 billion problem of the global potato industry today, comes from a potato variety from Argentina with that natural characteristic.

However, these benefits that may not be enough to ease the worries of consumers, celebrities, legislators, and health experts who believe genetically modified foods of any kind are unsafe for consumption and have led to some states and countries around the world banning their development and sale.

Controversy continues as efforts to get products labeled as GMO or otherwise are also mounting. In the U.S., a recent bill passed by the House could put an end to that debate, as it would allow voluntary rather than mandatory GMO labeling.

However, last week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) became the target of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) over USDA’s alleged failure to supply CFS with records on GMO crops, as requested.

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