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Idaho Company Seeks To Introduce Genetically Engineered Potato

Simplot Plant Sciences

One of the country's leading suppliers of french fries is asking the federal government to approve genetically modified potatoes. The USDA announced the move Friday by the J.R. Simplot Company of Idaho. It would be the only genetically engineered potato on the market.

Simplot has branded them Innate potatoes. The company figured out how to use existing potato DNA to design a spud that’s less prone to dark spots. It also produces less acrylamide when cooked. Acrylamide is a neurotoxin found in many foods. Studies on animals have indicated it may also cause cancer.

This wouldn't be the first attempt to market a genetically engineered potato. A spud developed by Monsanto in the 1990s was discontinued, partly because of push-back from McDonalds and its customers. Simplot is a long-time supplier of the McDonalds chain.

The Simplot Company declined to comment on where it plans to sell its genetically engineered potato.

A policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety says Simplot hasn’t done enough research on the possible health effects of the potato. He says unlike most other genetically engineered crops – like soybeans, canola, and cotton – potatoes are grown for direct human consumption.

The public comment period on Simplot’s petition runs through July 2.

On the Web:

Simplot Company's petition - Federal Register 
Simplot Plant Sciences - Simplot Company