Bringing the promise of late blight resistance a second generation of the genetically engineered Innate potato has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The USDA announced its determination of nonregulated status for the variety, which was developed by J.R. Simplot Co. and engineered for late blight resistance, low-acrylamide potential, reduced black spot bruising, and lowered reducing sugars, according to the USDA"s release.
The USDA said it received more than 20 comments on the petition to give the variety nonregulated status, including concerns regarding the potential for disruption of trade and potential human health and environmental effects. The USDA concluded the variety is unlikely to pose a plant risk.
J.R. Simplot issued a statement saying improvements in the russet burbank variety were achieved by adapting genes only from wild and cultivated potatoes.
Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration approval could be a year away for the second-generation Innate, so the variety won"t enter the market until 2017, said Doug Cole, director of company marketing and communications at the Boise, Idaho-based J.R. Simplot.
The first generation of the Innate potato was approved by the USDA last year and cleared by the FDA this spring.
"Early research shows that Innate second-generation potatoes will further contribute to reducing waste associated with bruise, blight and storage losses by reducing waste at multiple stages of the value chain, including in-field, during storage, processing, and in foodservice," Simplot said in the statement. "That research suggests that these traits will translate to less land, water and pesticide applications to produce these potatoes."
Simplot said in the statement that some experts estimate the Innate"s late blight resistance can result in a 25% to 45% reduction in fungicide applications annually to control late blight.
Lower asparagine in the potato means that accumulation levels of acrylamide can be reduced by up to 90% or more when these potatoes are cooked at very high temperatures, according to the statement from Simplot. The potato"s trait of lowered reducing sugars enable cold storage at 38 degrees for more than six months without the build-up of sugars which improves quality, according to the Simplot statement.
Cole said about 400 acres of the first-generation Innate potatoes were planted in the spring of 2014 and sold in the summer this year. The 2015 acreage for the first-generation Innate potato is near 2,000 acres, he said, and those potatoes will be sold this fall and into next year.
Those first-generation Innate potatoes have been sold mainly in the fresh market, including fresh whole potatoes sold in supermarkets and foodservice. Cole said the Innate potatoes sold broadly through the Southeast and the Midwest, in about 1,000 retail stores in 11 states.
"They sold at the same levels as conventional potatoes," he said.
Cole said the bagged potatoes, labeled "white russet" but not explicitly marked as "genetically engineered," reference a website, where consumers can learn more about how the potatoes are grown and the technology behind the variety. The bag also describes the benefits of the potato, which Simplot says are reduced bruising and less browning.
Next spring, first-generation fresh-cut Innate potatoes will be marketed, Cole said. The fresh-cut product, with no preservatives or additives, will be a market test, with production from limited acres sold to foodservice operators through broadline distributors. Retail sales of fresh cut Innate potato aren"t anticipated for several years, Cole said.
Simplot said several potato marketers are bringing the whole fresh potatoes to market, but confidentiality agreements preclude naming those shippers.
The two main issues related to GMO fruits and vegetables are benefits to growers and complications for the produce supply chain, said Bruce Peterson, president of Peterson Insights Inc., Bentonville, Ark.
"I think agriculture would like to proliferate more and more (GMO varieties), but the problem is how does that get defined as a consumer value proposition?" Peterson said. With recent momentum toward mandatory labeling of GMO food, Peterson said GMO fruits and vegetables may face market risks.
Until the time labeling of GMO fruits and vegetables is required an outcome that Peterson thinks is likely there may be an expanding number of GMO fruits and vegetables approved for sale.
"If all of a sudden a regulatory agency says we need a different kind of labeling and you have a significant amount of product in the market already, does that cause a disturbance, and who pays for it?" he asked.
If retailers are forced to handle GMO and non-GMO fruits and vegetables differently in the logistics chain and display floor, it will create new burdens, he said.
Peterson said the ability of consumers to understand benefits to them from GMO fruits and vegetables will ultimately determine the success of the technology.