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USDA clears GMO potato with lower cancer risk

(Stephen Ausmus photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

CORRECTED, Nov. 10, 2014 — Washington | Reuters — The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday approved the first genetically modified potato for commercial planting in the United States in more than a decade, a move likely to draw the ire of groups opposed to artificial manipulation of foods.

The so-called Innate potato, developed by the J.R. Simplot Co., is engineered to contain less of a suspected human carcinogen that occurs when a conventional potato is fried, and is also less prone to bruising during transport.

Idaho-based Simplot is a major supplier of frozen French fries to fast food giant McDonald’s Corp.

Friday’s announcement came from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Simplot applied to APHIS for approval of the Innate potato in 2013. The submission was also reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.

It was the first GM potato approved by APHIS that was not developed by Monsanto Co., which had a number of potatoes approved in 1995 through 1999 engineered to resist pests and disease.

Field trials of the Innate potato were conducted from 2009 through 2011 in eight states – Florida, Indiana, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin.

Genetic modification is common in U.S. field crops such as corn and soybeans. More than 90 percent of U.S. soybeans and about 89 percent of U.S. corn are genetically altered for herbicide tolerance or other traits.

But the potential adoption of genetic modification has been more controversial in food crops such as wheat, where no GM varieties are approved in the U.S., and for fruits and vegetables.

APHIS said it received hundreds of submissions from individuals or groups about Simplot’s potato during a public comment period.

Among those opposing the potato were individuals and groups broadly opposed to the development of GM crops in general, as well as to the regulatory framework surrounding genetic modification, APHIS said.

The potential for human benefits — a lower cancer risk for consumers — was among the positives cited in public comments.

— Ros Krasny is Reuters’ editor-in-chief for commodities, energy and companies news in Washington, D.C.

CORRECTION from Reuters, Nov. 10, 2014: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Innate was the first GMO potato approved for commercial planting in the U.S.


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