Is the Newly Approved GMO Potato Safe?

New Genetically Modified Potato

 

Innate™ GMO Potato

The Innate™ Potato was recently approved by the USDA and is expected to start being sold and produced in early 2015. Created by Simplot, one of the largest food and agribusiness companies in the United States, the Innate™ Potato has been genetically modified to
  • Resist Bruising
  • Resist Browning
  • Reduce the amount of Acrylmide, a known cancer causing chemical created when potatoes are fried.

The Technical Details

The GMO potato is modified using RNAi technology. It works like this:
  1. Isolate the genetic elements from wild and cultivated potatoes.
  2. Rearrange them to the desired permutations.
  3. Introduce the genetic elements into the potato.
  4. RNA interference, a self defense mechanism is activated. This silences the gene related to the desired trait.

Benefits

  • Billions of pounds of potatoes and money go to waste every year because of bruising during transportation, or browning after slicing. This new potato would reduce the waste and save billions of dollars and reduce environmental impact of wasted food.
  • Since less cancer causing chemicals will be produced there will be reduced health hazards for people who eat a lot of fried potatoes. Interestingly enough, McDonald’s, one of the largest potato buyers (3 billion tons a year), is not jumping to buy these potatoes “McDonald’s USA does not source GMO potatoes nor do we have current plans to change our sourcing practices.”

Dangers

  • RNAi—is considered by some scientists to be even more dangerous than the DNA manipulation technology used to create other crops.
  • A major concern of RNAi technology is the possibility of off-targets or the chance of the newly introduced genes attaching to similar genes instead of the intended one and silencing the wrong gene.
  • Genetics is a complex subject
    • Studies show that modified DNA can survive digestion and end up in our blood and organs.
    • So there is a potential for interaction/alternation of human genes which may be passed down the generations.
  • A decade of tests have been done, but this is not long enough to find any problems passed down through generations.
  • The silencing of the asparagine gene.
    • Asparagine is important gene in protection against disease.
    • If the new potatoes have a reduced ability to defend against disease the consequences are huge for the mono culture crop.

Conclusion

Did you know that GMO potatoes failed before in the early 90’s because of consumer resistance? Simplot created a potato to solve some big problems, but at what cost to our health? Only time will tell. In the meantime produce in the US is currently not required to be labeled as genetically engineered, so even if you want to avoid GMO potatoes it would be difficult. Still, these new potatoes on definitely on my list of vegetables to avoid.


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