When potatoes are fried, a chemical called acrylamide is created. Acrylamide has been shown to cause cancer in rodents and is theorized to be a human carcinogen, a substance that can cause cancer. To counter this issue, the J.R. Simplot Company, a major supplier of frozen French fries to McDonald’s, has genetically modified a potato to instead produce 50 to 75 percent lower amounts of acrylamide and resistance to bruising.
However this isn’t the first time that a company has tried to introduce genetically modified potatoes. The company Monsanto tried to sell potatoes that were made resistant to the Colorado potato beetle but due to fears that consumers would reject the new potatoes,buyers refused to buy the potatoes and farmers then stopped growing it. As a result the Monsanto potatoes failed miserably. The Simplot Company hopes to avoid the same disaster. Unlike other genetically modified crops, this “Innate Potato” does not have genes from other species added to produce the desired effect.
Instead, in a process that isn’t as known, called RNA interference, the Simplot Company uses potato DNA fragments to stop 4 potato genes that help produce certain enzymes. By stopping the production of these enzymes, the properties of bruising resistance and decreased acrylamide production is conferred to the potato.The company hopes that by using native potato genes, potential customers will be less hesitant to use the “Innate Potato.”
In a world beset by global warming and with an exponentially growing population, the crops of today may not be enough. In order to feed the people of the future under increasingly unfavorable conditions, scientists need to modify crops that are able to survive in a harsher world. This “Innate Potato” may be the first of a new breed of GMOs.
Written By: Kevin Yiu
Pollack, Andrew. “U.S.D.A. Approves Modified Potato. Next Up: French Fry Fans.”The New York Times. 7 Nov. 2014. Web. Accessed 15 Nov. 2014.