GMO Potatoes: Coming Soon to a McDonald’s Near You?
It’s been a decade since consumer outcry forced Monsanto to take its transgenic potatoes off the market.
A lot has changed in the years since.
Now Simplot has officially asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve five new varieties of genetically engineered potatoes, dubbed Innate™, which the company has invented. In addition to the U.S. market, Simplot is also seeking approval of its potato creation in Canada, Japan, Mexico and South Korea.
Simplot claims the potatoes are ‘unlikely to pose a plant pest risk’ and should therefore not require Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulation. APHIS, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is the governmental body that issues permits for GM organism release. APHIS has officially posted Simplot’s potato petition for public comment until July 2nd, 2013 on the Federal Register.
Supporters of Simplot’s new GM potatoes claim they are supposed to be better than Monsanto’s version because Simplot’s potatoes aren’t transgenic — meaning Simplot hasn’t crossed genes from their potatoes with genes from other organisms the way Monsanto did.
This doesn’t do much to lessen many of the broader concerns for introducing yet another genetically engineered organism into the food supply. As Center for Food Safety Science Policy Analyst Bill Freese points out, these risky GM foods are already under-regulated by the FDA and USDA as it is:
“The biotech approach is to change the food on a genetic level in quite frankly risky ways with inadequate regulation to adapt a crop to an industrial food system that’s really unhealthy in so many ways.”
Simplot scientists ‘silenced’ unwanted traits in the potato’s genome to produce potatoes with less black spots and less of a natural but potentially carcinogenic substance acrylamide, something that forms during the high-temperature cooking of starchy foods. On the surface, that sounds advantageous, but the reality is that genetic engineering is a toss of the dice — and independent studies have shown GM foods pose risks to nearly every system in the body.
In Jeffrey Smith’s book Genetic Roulette, he points out that GM potatoes that produced their own insecticides fed to rats in studies exhibited immune system damage; inhibited brain, liver and testicle development; and precancerous cell growth in their digestive tracts.
While Simplot’s GM potatoes have not been modified to produce insecticide, Smith notes that the damage to these rats was likely not based on the fact that the potatoes produced the insecticide, but because of the process of genetic engineering itself.
When it comes to long-term health and the environmental risks of tinkering with nature, genetically engineered foods are still a wildcard because the truth is, no one really knows.
Here in the U.S., Americans spend $10 billion a year just on potato chips alone. The potato is a major food staple. Already approximately 90 percent or more of the nation’s corn, soybean, canola and cottonseed are genetically modified, along with a growing laundry list of fruits and veggies. Genetically engineered food is completely infiltrating average the American diet.
McDonald’s sells 9 million pounds of French fries to the world per day. That’s more than 3.29 billion pounds of fries sold every year.
According to the history books, Simplot shook hands with McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc back in 1967, striking a deal that Simplot would provide the fast food restaurant with its french fries. By 2005, half of all McDonald’s fries came from Simplot Co. Given than Simplot is the dominant McDonald’s French fry supplier, it makes sense that if approved, McDonald’s will serve Simplot’s GM potatoes to its customers.
This scenario is all the more likely because the former president of McDonald’s USA, Janice L. Fields, is currently sitting on Monsanto’s Board of Directors. Fields served two overlapping years at both companies. With Monsanto’s status as a world leader in GM food production, McDonald’s is closely linked to the biotech industry.
APHIS is currently considering not only Simplot’s potato, but a GM apple that doesn’t bruise and yet another new Monsanto variety of alfalfa. As each day passes, pure organic food is being overshadowed on plates across the nation and the world by science experiments with untold long-term potential dangers.
In a world where GM foods go undisclosed, this is one more major food staple consumers are sure to encounter unless they watch their every bite.