This is an interesting story that illustrates just how much anti-GMO campaigns have impacted the public’s perception of genetic engineering and the benefits it can actually bring. McDonald’s has announced they are putting their foot down on GMOs saying they are not going to use a hot new GM potato to fulfill their needs. A company called Simplot, an agribusiness conglomerate in the same league as Monsanto, is the main potato supplier for McDonald’s, which in turn is the largest purchaser of potatoes in the country. They have just recently come up with a new variety of genetically modified potato, which they have dubbed the “Innate potato.” It’s an interesting piece of engineering as most GMO foods are made by splicing genes from other plants in order to make them resistant to pesticides, but that’s not what Simplot is doing here. The Innate potato was created using genes from other types of potatoes, primarily wild varieties, to increase shelf life. It is engineered to bruise less, keep for longer, resist browning when exposed to oxygen, and contains less of an amino acid called acrylamide which is thought to be carcinogenic in large doses. McDonald’s says they do not source GMO potatoes nor do they have plans to. To be fair to Simplot, it should be understood that they aren’t really looking to market Innate potatoes to the fast food industry. In fact, the amount they are currently cultivating wouldn’t even scratch the surface of french-fry supply needs. What they hope to do is sell the potatoes in whole form or as “fresh-cut”, similar to pre-sliced apples. How well Innate will go over with consumers is tough to tell as public opinion is so divided on the GMO subject. GMO potatoes have tried and failed before, although previous varieties were engineered to resist herbicides. There is some concern among potato producers that Simplot’s new variety could possibly contaminate US exports, which did happen with a GMO Monsanto spud. However, Simplot is working with the University of Idaho to develop practices that would ensure Innate doesn’t end up where it’s not welcome. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. (Source: Modern Farmer)
In case you missed the headline, voters in Maui yesterday voted to ban GMO farming. This vote came despite heavy spending and political opposition from Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences. From what I hear, The Maui County measure is significantly more far-reaching than any other GMO measure we have seen in the past, essentially imposing a temporary moratorium on genetically engineered crops until the county can further analyze their impact on public health and the environment. Basically, that brings to a standstill the majority of the farming being done by Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, both of which operate in Maui County. A spokeswoman for the Hawaii chapter of the Center for Food Safety, a national nonprofit that has been lobbying for more regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) said, “I think this is a really strong message to the entire agrochemical industry in the state of Hawaii that we are no longer going to sit idly by and watch them expand their operations without the kinds of regulations that ensure the health and safety of people across Hawaii.” On the flip-side, pro-GMO sources said, “We are deeply concerned for the 600-plus workers and their families, local businesses, farmers and taxpayers that will be negatively impacted by the passage of this scientifically unjustified, deeply flawed and irresponsible proposal.” I’m not wanting to debate the election, but rather ask if this is just the tip of the iceberg? Remember, Hawaii is a key location for many of our nations top seed corporations and biotech research teams. Just last year, the Hawaii County Council passed a bill that banned biotech companies from starting new operations on the Big Island and further prohibited the expansion of genetically altered crops. I’m not trying to pass judgement, but from my perspective, it certainly feels like voters are starting to take more steps back away from GM crops. I just hope things haven’t spiraled too far and voters can somehow become better educated in regard to the benefits of GM crops. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out… Stay tuned!