New GMO potato not well received by some Islanders

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By Michael Conor McCarthy
An Idaho-developed potato recently approved for consumption by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency hasn’t been met with approval by some Islanders.

When peeled and left out in the air, Innate potatoes, shown on the left, take longer to brown. On the right is a conventional russet Burbank potato. Submitted photo
When peeled and left out in the air, Innate potatoes, shown on the left, take longer to brown. On the right is a conventional russet Burbank potato. Submitted photo
The Innate potato, a russet variety, was brought to Canada by J.R. Simplot, a Boise, Idaho. company.

It has traits taken from cultivated and wild potatoes that prevent it from browning quickly when exposed to oxygen. Simplot hopes this will reduce waste.

The potato has been grown in field trials in New Brunswick and P.E.I. for the past three years, although none of the potatoes grown in Canada are currently being sold.

Earth Action P.E.I. leader Sharon Labchuk said studies have shown that genetically engineered foods like the Innate are unsafe.

She said Innate growers shouldn’t get comfortable.

A previous genetically engineered potato was “ran out of P.E.I.” 11 years ago, said Labchuk, after protestors boycotted fast-food chain Wendy’s, which was using the potato.

Cindy Pearson, national manager of the plant biosafety office, said the assessment undertaken by the CFIA determined that the Innate was in no way different from conventional potatoes in terms of its safety.

Pearson said the regulatory process assessing the potato took place over 33 months.

The regulatory process also concluded that there would be no negative consequences of cross-pollination with relatives of the Innate.

“Even if the health aspect is unable to be proven confidently because we are unable to test on humans, there are lots of other aspects to the potato that make it not really a benefit to society as a whole,” said Labchuk.

Labchuk pointed to corporate control of the seed supply, as well as mass use of pesticides.

A study released by the Department of Health and Wellness in December found that eliminating the use of pesticides would have little or no impact on disease rates in P.E.I. 

J.R. Simplot has also developed a second generation of the Innate potato, which has been assessed by the Food and Drug Administration.

“The FDA concluded that these russet Brubank generation 2 potatoes are not materially different in composition, safety and other relevant parameters from any other potato,” Simplot said in a press release.

This second generation is more resistant to blight, which is an infection usually prevented with pesticides.

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