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USDA Gives GMO Potato Exclusive Approval

Nov 10, 2014 11:06 PM EST

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reportedly deregulated a new genetically modified potato, adding the product to an exclusive list of now nine lab-made GMO food crops that can be sold in the United States.

According to the J.R. Simplot Company, "this approval comes after a decade of scientific development, safety assessments and extensive field tests."

The potatoes also apparently grow just like your standard domestic potato crop. What makes the potatoes different, however, is that they bruise less and have lower levels of asparagine - a natural amino acid that can be turned into a suspected human carcinogen when exposed to flash frying.

Reuters reports that Simplot first applied for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) approval back in 2013, after a number of field trials conducted from 2009 through 2011.

GMOs are not uncommon in the United States. Technically, mostly everything you eat (and yes, that includes most of the rustic products you buy at your local farmer's market) are genetically modified organisms. Experts have been arguing that we have been selecting for the genetic expression of traits in our food crops for centuries, even if we have just recently moved away from breeding kits to doing things exclusively in a lab.

Most GMOs are also products of genetic editing, in which only naturally possible traits are selected for. Genetic insertion, on the other hand, is a new practice where traits that a plant could not normally boast are added into the mix. This allows researchers to make crops (like corn and soybeans) that can tolerate herbicides or grow in unfavorable conditions. However, it also can have unforeseen consequences, which is why many people are strongly opposed to GMOs in the United States.

Simplot's so-called "Innate potato" apparently is not of the worrisome second variety.

"The name does a good job of describing the process," David Douches, Director of the Potato Breeding and Genetics Program at Michigan State University, told BestFoodFacts. "The technology used to produce it involves isolating genetic elements from the plant's existing gene structure, and after some rearranging, introducing them back into the potato without incorporating genes from other species. The product is from within... adding something new, but it was already in the potato in the first place."

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