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GMO Potatoes Have Arrived.

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by tulianr, Jan 14, 2015.

  1. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    But Will Anyone Buy Them?

    On the face of it, the new potato varieties called "Innate" seem attractive. If you peel the brown skin off their white flesh, you won't find many unsightly black spots. And when you fry them, you'll probably get a much smaller dose of a potentially harmful chemical.

    But here's the catch: Some of the biggest potato buyers in the country, such as Frito-Lay and McDonald's, seem afraid to touch these potatoes. Others don't even want to talk about them because they are genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

    The potatoes aren't yet on the market (more about that later). So to get a sneak peek at them I paid a visit to Michigan State University and its top potato breeder, David Douches.

    Douches is a lean and focused man, in constant motion. He's been working with potatoes for most of his adult life. It is, you might say, a committed but high-maintenance relationship.

    Douches fell for the potato 32 years ago, when he was in graduate school. It seemed like "a beautiful plant to work with," he says. It also feeds a lot of people. According to the International Potato Center, the potato is the world's third-most-important food crop. "I felt that when I work on something like this, it could have a large impact," Douches says.

    He wants to make the potato just a little bit better. Unfortunately, the potato resists improvement.

    The reasons lie in the genetic nature of this crop. It's very difficult, using traditional breeding, to make gradual improvements in an established potato variety. Mating it with another variety produces tremendously varied offspring, the vast majority of them inferior to the variety that you were hoping to improve. It's like trying to improve a really good poker hand by reshuffling the whole deck of cards and dealing again.

    This is why Douches is so excited about these new potatoes: They're just like a much-loved variety, but better. To demonstrate, he and his colleague Joseph Coombs are banging some potatoes around inside an ancient, rotating wooden drum.

    [​IMG] i
    Joseph Coombs, a researcher at Michigan State University, tumbles potatoes during a "bruise test."

    Dan Charles/NPR
    This is a bruise test. They're comparing two different varieties.

    The first variety is russet Burbank, the most popular potato in America. It's been widely grown for more than a century. The other potatoes are almost identical to russet Burbank, but the J.R. Simplot Co. of Boise, Idaho, has inserted some extra genes into them in the laboratory. These potatoes are called Innate russet Burbank.

    The Simplot Co. chose the word "innate" because the new genes it inserted are actually modified versions of some genes that exist naturally in potatoes; they are innate to this species. But the inserted genes have a curious effect: They shut down a few of the potato's original, natural genes. Scientists call it gene silencing.

    We're about to see the results. We peel some potatoes that went through the bruising barrel yesterday and lay them out on a table. The traditional russet Burbank potatoes are starting to show some evidence of bruising. Black spots are forming.

    Michigan State's researchers cooked up two batches of fries to compare bruising in traditional, non-GMO potatoes (left) and GMO potatoes (right).

    Dan Charles/NPR
    We see few bruises, by contrast, on the Innate russet Burbank potatoes.

    There's another difference that we cannot see. If we fry these potatoes, the Innate russet Burbanks will have less than half as much of a worrisome chemical called acrylamide.

    Lots of foods — coffee, for instance — contain acrylamide. But when lab rats eat it, they're more likely to get cancer. Studies have never shown a clear link between acrylamide consumption and cancer in humans, but the Food and Drug Administration still says that it's a good idea to consume less of it.

    For both these reasons — less bruising and less acrylamide — Haven Baker, general manager of Simplot Plant Sciences, thinks that consumers should be lining up to buy these new potatoes. "The No. 1 consumer complaint [about potatoes] is black spot bruise," he says. "You have to cut it out or, if it's bad enough, throw the potato away. It's a significant waste issue."

    The Simplot Co. has created Innate versions of several different varieties, including one called Atlantic that's widely used to make potato chips. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the new varieties in November. They are not on sale yet because Simplot is waiting for a green light from the FDA, which is reviewing scientific data — mostly provided by the company — on how genetic modification has altered the chemical makeup of the potato and whether any of those changes could raise safety concerns.

    But even before they've gone on sale, some of the very biggest potato buyers seem to be backing away from them.

    Frito-Lay, the biggest potato chip maker, and McDonald's have both issued statements saying that they are not planning to use the Simplot potatoes in their products. An executive at another potato chip company told The Salt that his company does not plan to use those potatoes. He didn't even want to be quoted on the subject for fear that someone would mistakenly get the opposite impression.

    Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, an environmental advocacy group, says food companies should, in fact, react this way. "When you ask consumers if they're comfortable with this technology, they are not," she says. Food and Water Watch has launched a petition calling on McDonald's to reject GMO potatoes.

    There may not be anything wrong with these potatoes, Lovera says, but she does not think the government is regulating biotech crops carefully enough. "I don't have some smoking gun to hand you [about] this danger or that danger," she says, "but we don't think that the review that they've gone through can show us that they're safe."

    Yet other advocates for healthy food believe the Simplot potatoes offer real advantages.

    "It's really strange how GMO has become a curse word," says Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Jacobson has been among the leaders of the healthful-food movement. For the past 40 years, he has fought excess sugar, fat, salt and food additives.

    GMO Potatoes Have Arrived. But Will Anyone Buy Them? : The Salt : NPR
    But genetic modification? It's just another technology, he says, "and if we could have genetically engineered crops and foods that produce safer products, and less expensive products, that's terrific!"

    The FDA does need to examine these new potatoes, Jacobson says. But if they do deliver less cancer risk, and result in less food wasted, he hopes that people will buy them.
    Mindgrinder likes this.
  2. Mindgrinder

    Mindgrinder Karma Pirate Ninja Jedi Bipolar WINNING M.L.F.

    Not on my list of preps.
    I VERY rarely have to buy potatoes.....and if I do....1/2 of them generally go in the ground.
    I get very upset when they are sprayed an won't grow eyes....hence I NEVER buy from grocery store.
    Local only from farmers market or the crazy chineese fruit market with mutant food.
  3. VHestin

    VHestin Farm Chick

    I have no problem growing potatoes...but I'm not seeing the point in GMO potatoes. Less cancer risk? They're talking about McDonald's and Frito Lay not wanting to buy them. Um, french fries and potato chips, I don't think people who eat enough of them to care about less cancer risk will have that much of a healthy life to start with...
    tedrow42 and tulianr like this.
  4. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey

    I don't see GMO as necessarily bad and also don't see "organic" as necessarily good. There is so much bad science on these and almost any other subject that is is near impossible to get any real truth. We have been duped many times by bad science and people tend to be like lemmings and just follow the herd, like people who won't eat gluten because that's the new "it's bad for you" fad.

    Worse, is when science is skewed by ideology. Remember "Silent Spring", the book responsible for banning DDT? It turns out that DDT wasn't as damaging as portrayed, and in fact more birds are killed by cats than all pesticides combined even when DDT was in use. I've read estimates that as many as 43,000,000 people have died due to malaria since the DDT ban. Prior to the ban malaria had almost been eradicated by the use of DDT.

    The point is that we are always being manipulated by those that have a vested interest, whether it's money, power, ideology, pride or otherwise and should not be led down the trail without asking a LOT of questions.
  5. tedrow42

    tedrow42 Monkey

    Thats A big no For Me Too i cant wait to own a place i will grow my own everything
    glove likes this.
  6. Cruisin Sloth

    Cruisin Sloth Special & Slow

    black spots are a weevil potato bug infestation & here we use nematodes to rid the ground of them .
    Nematode - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Please lets keep all the GMO stuff just in USA , as many country's are now trying . Glad Norway did the seed vault .
    Monsanto & the rest of the Corporations have the western world under their control , soon they will be able to VOTE & voting against working tax payers !!
    One more Panama bug will wipe out the Banana plantations in South america . The european ones have all died .

    glove likes this.
  7. glove

    glove Monkey

    GMOs should have never been allowed on the market without proper scientific studies. Most people are completely unaware as to how they are created. It is deplorable what is happening and most just dismiss it blindly believing that since it is on the market it is safe. The ramifications of gmos is extensive and only contributes to the healthcare crisis.
    Cruisin Sloth and tulianr like this.
  8. -06

    -06 Monkey+++

    IMO it is a big money grabbing scheme. When they get all the food seeds into hybrids they will be able to control the food supply of the world--potentially the largest monopoly the world has ever seen. Far as eating the stuff---will stay with time tried varieties.
    Cruisin Sloth and Yard Dart like this.
  9. Cruisin Sloth

    Cruisin Sloth Special & Slow

    Many GMO's beans / seeds & will not sprout or have no seeds to reproduce . We have had a few squash that have reverted back to it's original type & the off growing a few years later have been worth the time to get non-hybrids back to it's basic.

    If they frigged with the Potato (only food stable food that anyone can grow & live on during many of the rash-end wars) this is very bad. if it hasn't got any "eyes" im not buying it.
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