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Three new GMO spuds earn permission from USDA

Two companies have green lights from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for their non-browning potato varieties that have had their genes altered.

Simplot logo with seedlingsCalyxt, a company based in New Brighton, MN, got the go ahead for its cultivar known as “PPO_KO” and the J.R. Simplot Co. of Boise, ID, has permission for its “X17” and “Y9” spuds, aka Ranger Russet and Atlantic varieties of the Innate biotech potatoes. The U.S. government already deregulated Simplot’s Russet Burbank from its Innate line of engineered potatoes in 2015.

Calyxt logo with potatoThe cultivar from Calyxt is similarly engineered, according to documents filed with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

All of three of the genetically modified potato varieties to earn approval this fall did so by meeting the criteria showing they do not contain genes from “plant pests.” By avoiding the “plant pest” label, the potatoes earned the APHIS “Finding Of No Significant Impact” status known as FONSI.

In all three potato varieties, a gene responsible for bruising and browning has been knocked out of commission.

The potato companies say the modification will help reduce food waste and therefore help increase food security by keeping potatoes in the food supply that would otherwise be discarded. By turning off the browning and bruising gene, fewer chips and fries should be rejected for discoloration during production.

Federico Tripodi, Calyxt’s CEO, told the Capital-Press that up to 5 percent of fries and chips are rejected because of such discolorations.

With the action this fall from USDA, Calyxt now has two genetically modified potato varieties. The company got approval in 2014 for a variety that is now in field trials. One of its genes, associated with the cancer-causing compound acrylamide, has been deactivated.

Opponents to the requests from Calyxt and Simplot for unregulated status for their modified potato cultivars have voiced many of the concerns expressed about all genetically modified foods. The Center for Food Safety raised concerns about possible unintended and yet unknown consequences and impacts on other plants and animals, including humans.

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