Genetically-modified French fries with a decreased chance of cancer? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approves but anti-GMO activists are more skeptical.
On Friday, the USDA gave the OK for commercial planting of a potato genetically engineered to reduce the amounts of acrylamide produced when the potato is fried. Acrylamide is a chemical suspected of causing cancer when consumed in products like French fries and potato chips.
The super-spud has been trademarked the "Innate potato" by J. R. Simplot Company, which, The New York Times reports, was the initial supplier of McDonald's frozen French fries in the 1960s and remains a major supplier to the fast-food chain today. If the potato goes on to sell commercially, it will be the only genetically engineered potato variety in the U.S. market.
In addition to cutting potentially-cancerous chemicals, the genetically modified potato resists bruising, making it a more economically advantageous choice for growers and buyers.
Of course, not everyone is excited about the potential new French fry source. The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and other anti-GMO activists argue that there has not been enough research into the genetic engineering tactics used to create the supposedly safer-for-you potato.
“Claims of health benefits by USDA and Simplot are short sighted, misleading, and in the light of the science, could actually be potentially dangerous,” Elizabeth Kucinich, policy director at CFS, said in a statement.
Since the potato will only be planted in limited numbers for now, mostly for sale to supermarkets, food service companies and potato chip manufacturers, it will be at least a couple of years before most restaurant chains have the chance to buy the Innate potato. But if anti-GMO activists have their way, the potato will never make it onto the McDonald's menu, regardless of its potential to prevent cancer.