J.R. Simplot, a company that produces over 3 billion pounds of potatoes each year, hopes to soon add
a genetically engineered variety to their roster. Simplot’s new “Innate” potato is similar to conventional spuds, but borrows DNA from five varieties of potatoes, giving it some desirable traits.
Among Innate’s selling points, Simplot scientists say, is fortification making it less susceptible to black spot —a type of bruising that occurs when potatoes are knocked about during harvest. As these spotted potatoes must then be picked out of the harvest, the bruising can account for wasting up to 5% of a potato crop.
Similar to the non-browning apple, Innate potatoes are also engineered to produce less of a chemical that would otherwise cause them to brown when sliced. For a company like McDonald’s that sells 9 million pounds of French fries a day, these potatoes could mean an easy way to ensure all of their fries are that classic golden color and save them money in the process.
But while Simplot scientists are eager to bring their invention to the fast food market, anti-GMO activists are poised to attack, trying to intimidate McDonald’s into rejecting a superior potato.
Food & Water Watch, an anti-GMO environmentalist group, recently sent a letter to McDonald’s, warning them to spurn the spuds, or else face a “backlash” of consumer rejection. The letter calls the potatoes “anything but healthy” but offers no single specific fact to back up that claim.
Despite the fact the potato has reduced amounts of undesirable chemicals, activists made sure to write in a few phony scientific-sounding objections to the potatoes, just in case. Instead of facts, they put forward vague, scary-sounding pronouncements, claiming that reducing levels of common food enzymes within the potato “could unintentionally affect other plant characteristics” and have “unforeseen consequences for human health.” (Do these guys work for The State Science Institute?)
What those effects might be, of course, we aren’t told. But with no actual evidence to support their claims, it’s not surprising that they reach for a hazy “ooooh, you never know.”
In language befitting a mobster, the letter also reminds McDonald’s what happened the last time they crossed anti-GMO activists. In 2001, the French fry king decided against sourcing a technologically advanced insect-resistant potato, capitulating to the demands of a gang of activist groups who launched a campaign of misinformation and fear-mongering aimed at McDonald’s customers. “As you know, historically, GE potatoes have not fared so well in the marketplace…,” the letter cautions.
How kind of them to warn McDonald’s they plan to whip up a repeat attack, while they crack their knuckles in the corner.
Simplot sells McDonald’s over 50% of the potatoes that go into their famous golden fries, so it’s no wonder activists drummed up over 100,000 signatures to go with the letter. If they succeed in scaring up this “consumer backlash” and get McDonald’s to reject the biotech potatoes, they can call themselves top bully when it comes to beating down biotechnology.