Sunday, December 14, 2014

New Innate GMO Potatoes and the Consumer

“When will these scientists stop playing God and just let food give us cancer?” 
- The's response to new low-acrylamide potato.

A new Genetically Engineered (GE) potato has gained regulatory approval for planting in U.S. Ironies and contradictions abound with Conagra's Innate Potato, which may pose more problems for both producers and consumers than it solves.

The new potatoes harbor low levels of acrylamide-generating amino acids.  Acrylamide is categorized as a probable human carcinogen, and the problem of acrylamide in potatoes was first identified in 2002.  Since then, a large-scale effort to reduce acrylamide in potatoes has examined everything from fertilizer applications, to soil quality and planting date, and has finally resulted in a GE potato.

But this new potato presents a problem to McDonalds, etc.  How to promote a potato that fixes a problem most people didn't know was a problem?  Mother Jones points out the conundrum: "The only potential sales pitch would involve the lower dose of acrylamides. But saying "Our new fries might be less carcinogenic than the ones we've been selling you for 50 years" doesn't have much of a ring to it. "

The GMO debate is often between proponents of growers -- GMO is good for farmers -- and proponents of consumers -- GMOs are unnecessary and maybe bad. Up to now, almost all GMO crops have been designed to benefit growers. But this new potato shifts the dynamic. It offers a positive benefit to consumers. Especially, to health-conscious consumers!  But Mother Jones points out what a problematic product this must be to market, as it appears to be tailed specifically for a group of consumers who are already leery of genetic engineering...

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