Business Strategies / Food Safety / Industry News

Simplot's GMO Potato Gets FDA Clearance

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Jan 15, 2016

J.R. Simplot Co.’s genetically engineered potato received a safety stamp of approval from the FDA on Jan. 13. Whether it sells remains to be seen.

The federal agency ruled Simplot's Russet Burbank Generation 2 potato, which goes by the trade name Innate potato, is not materially different in composition, safety and other relevant parameters from any other potato or potato-derived food or feed currently on the market.

The FDA’s safety consultation was voluntarily requested by Simplot and comes about 14 months after USDA "deregulated" the same potato, allowing it be sold in the U.S. Simplot said the technical review was thorough and drew the support of leading potato research universities in the U.S. and Europe.

The potato contains four benefits of relevance to growers, processors and consumers: reduced bruising and black spots; reduced asparagine; resistance to late blight pathogens; and enhanced cold storage capability. These benefits were achieved by adapting genes from wild and cultivated potatoes.

In the reporting we did after the USDA approval back in November 2014, Simplot said no non-potato DNA was introduced into the Innate potato.

But also in those stories back in November 2014, McDonald's, a big potato customer of Simplot, said it would never use the potato.

"Academics consulted by Simplot estimate that the Innate late blight resistance trait can result in a 25-45 percent reduction in fungicide applications annually to control late blight," the company said in a statement. "Reduced asparagine means that accumulation levels of acrylamide can be reduced by up to 90 percent when these potatoes are cooked at high temperatures. In addition, lowered reducing sugars enable cold storage at 38°F for more than six months without the build-up of sugars, which maintains quality, and which cannot be achieved until today.

"Based on these academic estimates, if all Russet Burbank potatoes in the United States had Innate Gen. 2 traits, it is estimated that potato waste (in-field, during storage, packing, retail and foodservice for fresh potatoes) could be reduced by 986 million pounds," the company's statement continued. "In addition, CO2 emissions could be reduced by 146 million pounds, water usage reduced by 17 billion gallons, and a total of 495,000 fewer pesticide acre-applications would be needed."

Simplot also quoted farmers eager to start growing the potato.

Simplot will still need to complete its registration with the EPA for these potatoes before introducing them for sale in the U.S. marketplace.