Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a genetically modified potato for commercial planting.
What’s special about this potato is a couple of things. It’s been altered to resist bruising. Black spot bruise, as its known, is a post-harvest physiological disorder primarily resulting from the handling of potato tubers during harvest, transport, and processing, and refers to the black or grayish colour which may form in the interior of damaged potatoes.
The potato has also been altered to produce less acrylamide – a chemical that forms when potatoes are fried.
Acrylamide naturally forms, says Health Canada, during processing or cooking at high temperatures. It particularly forms in foods that are rich in carbohydrates and low in protein. The highest concentrations of acrylamide have been detected in potato chips and french fries, although it has been found in other foods as well.
The FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives Dietary has identified exposure to acrylamide as a potential concern, says Health Canada. But experts have not yet determined the precise level of risk for human health.
Acrylamide is known to cause cancer in experimental animals, but further research on the effects of exposure to humans is needed before the risks from food sources can be fully understood.
The new potato was developed by Boise, Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Company, says the NYTimes.com. It’s called Simplot Innate. J.R. Simplot is still a major supplier of potatoes to McDonald’s and has been since the 1960s.
The potato is among other crops genetically modified to provide added benefits to consumers, says the NYTimes.
The non-bruising trait of the new potato is similar to the genetically engineered non-browning apples, which are called Arctic apples and were developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits in B.C. These apples are still awaiting regulatory approval in the U.S.
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