US approves first genetically modified potato for commercial planting

US agriculture department yesterday approved the first genetically modified potato for commercial planting in the US, a move not likely to go down well with groups opposed to artificial manipulation of foods, Reuters reported.

The so-called Innate potato, developed by the JR Simplot Company, was engineered to contain less of a suspected human carcinogen that occur when a conventional potato was fried, and was also less prone to bruising during transport.

The Idaho-based company is a major supplier of frozen French fries to fast food giant McDonald's Corp.

The announcement yesterday came from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The company applied to APHIS for approval of the Innate potato in 2013. The submission had also been reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.

Eight states - Florida, Indiana, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin - were selected for field trials which were conducted from 2009 through 2011 in eight states.

Genetic modification is common in US field crops such as corn and soybeans, with over 90 per cent of US soybeans and about 89 per cent of US corn genetically altered for herbicide tolerance or other traits.

According to AP, the company altered the potato's DNA so it produced less acrylamide, which was suspected to be a human carcinogen. The chemical was naturally prodced in potatoes when they were cooked at high temperatures.

The potato was also engineered to resist bruising, which could cause black spots in the potatoes, which made them less desirable to buyers.

The USDA had approved genetically modified forms of many other crops, including corn and soybeans.