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Why Did China Just Ban McDonald’s New Genetically Modified Super Potato But The US Did Not?

November 12, 2014 by Jeff Roberts.

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Simplot, an agribusiness which supplies McDonald’s with over 3 billion pounds of potatoes annually, has just announced its latest genetic experiment with a potato appropriately titled ‘Innate.’

According to RT, the genetically modified (GM) potato has been engineered to bruise less easily as well as to not turn brown for hours after it’s been cut. Simplot has assured the public that Innate is coming to the market after almost “a decade of scientific development, safety assessments and extensive field tests,” which have taken place in Florida, Indiana, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin -between 2009 and 2011.

But the biggest bonus Innate has to offer is its impressively lessened levels of acrylamide, a well known carcinogen which is substantiated under high heat by deep-frying foods. The potato would produce 75% less acrylamide than their current french fry buy silencing certain genes and enzyme production.

Should We Be Concerned About The New GM Potato?

The USDA boasts there have been no observed dangers to other crops in the vicinity of the Innate crop, and it is rumored that the FDA will approve the potato within the month. However, the medical implications of the alterations have not been tested, according to RT.

McDonald’s China has denied that it has imported or used genetically engineered potatoes after the US Department of Agriculture approved the Innate potato, “McDonald’s China does not use genetically modified potatoes. The potatoes that McDonald’s China uses are in line with the national laws and regulations,” the public relations department of McDonald’s China told the Global Times Monday.

Simplot has come forward to address concerns raised about the GM product, stating that Innate is only manipulating genes from the potato crop itself rather than taking genes from bacteria and other organisms.

The GM potato being produced by Simplot is stated as being more resistant to bruising as well as browning after its been cut.

The company plans to use the potato’s main benefits for a two-pronged assault on the market. The spuds will be sold as a healthier alternative, and will also be supplied pre-cut to supermarkets and restaurants, due to the fact that they remain pristine-looking for longer. In fact, while the purported cancer effect will grab the headlines and curry public opinion, it is the longevity that really gives Innate its market advantage.

Nevertheless, the announcement has garnered concern from anti-GMO activists who believe that RNA interference is not yet fully understood.

“We think this is a really premature approval of a technology that is not being adequately regulated,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a plant pathologist and senior scientist at the Center for Food Safety, told the New York Times.

Anti-GMO Activism Has Worked In The Past

Activism can truly have an impact, as we've seen with the fallout of Monsanto's GM NewLeaf potato over a decade ago.

The power of activists should not be underestimated, as we’ve already witnessed how activist concerns can influence mega companies such as Monsanto. Between the years of 1996-2001 Monsanto’s GM NewLeaf potato gained popularity for its ability to resist the Colorado beetle and the PVY virus.

However as activists continued to rally against the use of GM foods, McDonald’s and other fast food chains turned their backs on the NewLeaf potato. Simplot also stopped using the crop, and Monsanto then moved their efforts towards more successful products, such as corn and soy.

The Food and Water Watch group has hoped to repeat the trick, already sending a petition signed by over 100,000 people, asking McDonald’s to ban all Innate potatoes. Simplot refuses to back down, however, and is already talking about future plans for the Innate potato which will have a resistance to late blight, the cause of the infamous Irish Potato Famine.

This is truly a situation of which is the lesser of the two evils, as neither genetically modified potatoes nor acrylamide ridden potatoes sound desirable to the health-concerned population. Regardless of whether the Innate potato is using genes from other potatoes, the implications of the gene alteration haven’t been properly tested for human safety.

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