Series: The Benevolent Side of GMOs
My post today is about what seems to me to be THE poster child of a benevolent GMO. Now that I have accepted that GMOs really can be benevolent, I feel so much freer to appreciate what benefits the technology can actually bring to the table (so to speak).
In this case, it’s a potato that does three things better than a conventional potato does, and all without introducing any foreign DNA. Yes, that’s right. Genetically engineered. Desired traits. No foreign DNA. The J. R. Simplot Company’s Plant Sciences business has named this technology Innate™ – an all-native biotechnology platform for improving crops. According to website PotatoPro.com, Innate™ is a patented plant biotechnology process that works with a plant’s own genes to enhance desirable traits and to decrease less desirable traits.
Here is what PotatoPro has to say: Simplot’s first application of Innate™ Technology involves improved potato varieties, which differ from their conventional counterparts in three ways:
- Reduced black-spot bruising;
- Reduced degradation of starch to sugars during storage
- Reduced asparagine levels.
Of the three traits listed, the last one is the most desirable when it comes to health. The process uses potato sequences to down-regulate a potato gene that leads to the production of asparagine, the compound leading to acrylamide production. When cooked, potatoes generate acrylamide, a human neurotoxin and carcinogen. It happens in all potatoes, baked or fried, processed potato products like chips, and other starchy foods such as bread. You know that yummy brown, slightly over-cooked part of a potato chip? Acrylamide.
Enter this new transgenic potato – engineered to reduce exposure to a neurotoxin and carcinogen. If that isn’t pure benevolence, I don’t know what is!
Simplot’s first application of the new technology has been submitted to the USDA for regulatory review. I do wonder what kind of spin the anti-GMO folks may put on this. I have to say, and this is just my opinion, but there does not appear to be anything in the least bit threatening about this potato. It feels pretty darn good to say that, frankly.
Here is the link to the petition for public comment. I read a bit of this document and was pleasantly amused when I encountered this: Potatoes have been genetically engineered through the insertion of sexually compatible potato or wild potato.
Sexually compatible wild potatoes. This biotechnology stuff just gets more interesting by the day!
To clarify: It is the GENES that come from the potato or sexually compatible wild potato. Basically, this is the same thing that could be done by breeding, only instead of taking decades, it has been accomplished in a few years. Here is the original research report: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22726556
5/11 Update: Excellent Q & A with Simplot’s VP of Plant Sciences Haven Baker. Innate Potato on biofortified.org
Still to Come: My Conversation With a Scientist continues and Scientific Reports For Dummies.