Scientists make a better potato
Scientists make a better potato A demonstration field of a new potato, genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine, at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. (J.R. Simplot Co. via AP/Thinkstock)
Scientists make a better potato
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A potato genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine is as safe as any other potato on the market, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.
The potato famine struck Ireland between 1845 and 1852, and about a million people died.
In a letter to Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co., the FDA said the potato isn't substantially different in composition or safety from other products already on the market. It doesn't raise any issues that would require the agency to do more stringent premarket vetting.
"We're pleased and hope that consumers recognize the benefits once it's introduced into the marketplace next year," Doug Cole, the company's director of marketing and communications, said.
Before the potato is marketed to consumers, it must be cleared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cole said. That's expected to happen in December.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the potato in August.
The Russet Burbank Generation 2 is the second generation of Simplot's "Innate" brand potatoes. It includes the first version's reduced bruising. But it has less of a chemical produced at high temperatures that some studies have shown can cause cancer.
The second-generation potato also includes an additional trait. The company says it will allow potatoes to be stored at colder temperatures longer to reduce food waste.
Haven Baker, vice president of plant sciences at Simplot, said late blight remains the No. 1 pathogen for potatoes around the world. It was the cause of the Irish potato famine.
"This will bring 24-hour protection to farmers' fields and, in addition, has the potential to reduce pesticide spray by 25 to 45 percent," Baker said.
The late blight resistance comes from an Argentinian variety of potato that naturally produced a defense.
"There are 4,000 species of potatoes," Baker said. "There is an immense library to help us improve this great food. By introducing these potato genes, we can bring sustainability and consumer benefits."
The company has already been selling its first generation of Innate potatoes to consumers. Its 2014 crop was sold out and the company is selling the 2015 crop of about 2,000 acres.
Cole said those potatoes were mostly grown in Idaho and Wisconsin. They are being sold in supermarkets across the nation.
But one of the company's oldest business partners, McDonald's, has rejected using any of Simplot's genetically engineered potatoes.
Cole said the company plans to introduce the potatoes to other restaurants and hotel convention centers as precut and pre-peeled potatoes, where he said the resistance to bruising makes them a good product.

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Why must the potato be cleared by the Environmental Protection Agency?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • tylerd2-mor
    1/28/2016 - 10:27 a.m.

    To make sure if it is safe to consume.

  • stefanig-mor
    1/28/2016 - 10:27 a.m.

    So that markets and restaurants can know that what they're giving their customers is not harmful in any way

  • addie-mor
    1/28/2016 - 10:28 a.m.

    Because whatever chemicals they are using to enhance the potatoes might be harmful to put into the ground or to have around other crops. Also, the chemicals would possibly be harmful to those eating the potatoes.

  • samantham6-mor
    1/28/2016 - 10:28 a.m.

    so they can make sure that the potato is safe enough for people to consume.

  • connert1-mor
    1/28/2016 - 10:28 a.m.

    to make sure the potato are not harmful to the environment.

  • chasec-mor
    1/28/2016 - 10:29 a.m.

    that way they can tell if the potato is good enough to be eaten

  • jacobs2-mor
    1/28/2016 - 10:29 a.m.

    The potato must be cleared by the EPA to make sure it is not harmful to the environment in any way.

  • hollyy-mor
    1/28/2016 - 10:29 a.m.

    To make sure the potatoes are safe and have a difference in safety characteristics than potatoes that are already on market.

  • markg1-mor
    1/28/2016 - 10:29 a.m.

    The potato must be cleared by the Environmental Protection Agency in order to insure this potato will not cause harm to fields; and therefore, be not repeat of the potato famine that occurred in the past.

  • makenzif-mor
    1/28/2016 - 10:29 a.m.

    To make sure that the potatoes are safe for all people to eat.

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