GMO potatoes approved by the USDA
Although voluntary approval is still pending from the FDA and the EPA, the Ranger Russet and the Atlantic Russet seem to be on target for planting this spring – much to the dismay of natural health advocates and GMO foes, who lament the environmental damage caused by GM crops.
GM potatoes will largely benefit the potato chip industry
The two potatoes were developed by J.R. Simplot Company, which claims they were designed to minimize bruising and dark spots, while also reducing a carcinogenic chemical that develops when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures. They are also intended to resist “late blight,” the pathogen that triggered the Irish potato famine in the 1800s.
Both the Ranger Russet and Atlantic Russet are second-generation varieties of Innate potatoes. The first GM potato, the White Russet, made its debut last year.
Simplot claims that only genes from other potatoes – in particular, an Argentinian variety naturally resistant to blight – were used in designing the new potatoes. The company also predicts that less bruising could cause a 15 percent increase in top-quality potatoes, while reducing trucking costs and cold storage problems for the potato chip industry.
Will growers and consumers be tricked again?
Simplot says its GM potatoes will let farmers reduce the amount of pesticides they use – by up to 45 percent. Pesticides have been linked to developmental delays, cancer and a host of other debilitating conditions – not surprising when you consider that organophosphate pesticides were originally developed as biological weapons.
If Simplot’s promise sounds familiar – it’s because it is. Other biotech companies have taken growers and consumers down this deceptive road before. For example, Monsanto – the biotech giant that produces not only GM seeds but the poisons to be sprayed on them – uses a two-pronged argument to justify their environmentally destructive practices.
First, they claim that genetic modification is essential in order to allow enough food to be grown to feed the growing world population – which will reach 10 billion by 2050. Second, they claim that by engineering crops that resist pests – while tolerating the application of herbicides – growers can use smaller amounts of toxic chemicals.
NY Times investigation reveals the lie offered by self-serving biotech company claims
Neither of these claims has been validated by research. In fact, a recent NY Times investigation used United Nations data to show that genetic modification has not caused increases in crop yields – and hasn’t led to a reduction in the use of pesticides. After 20 years of Monsanto relentlessly pushing its GM crops, American farmers – who grow them at a greater rate than Western Europeans, who banned many – have no discernible advantage in yields since adopting the crops.
And, herbicide use – rather than declining as promised – has risen by 21 percent in the United States, while declining in France by 36 percent.
As for insecticides and fungicides, rates have indeed fallen by a third in the U.S. – but fallen by two thirds in France.
In response to the article, the biotech industry is firing back, claiming that data was “cherry picked.”
Yet even Matin Qaim – an independent expert at the University of Gottingen in Germany who ordinarily supports Monsanto’s claims – seems underwhelmed by the results of GM crops. He has gone on record as saying “I don’t consider this (the use of GM crops) to be the miracle type of technology that we couldn’t live without.”
You can read the entire NY Times article here.
GM crops are everywhere throughout the United States
The depressing truth is that up to 90 percent of all soy and corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified – and over half of all sugar beets are grown from GMO seeds.
However, potatoes had remained free of genetic manipulation, until last year’s debut of Simplot’s White Russet potato – which sold to the tune of 40 million pounds in 35 states throughout the nation. With this year’s USDA approval of the second-generation Ranger Russet and Atlantic Russet “non-bruising, blight-resistant” potatoes, the floodgates have likely been opened.
You can avoid GM potatoes by buying local, organic produce
Yet there is an easy way to protect yourself from GM crops. Buying locally-grown food that is certified organic means that the produce, by definition, contains no synthetic or chemical pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides.
Although organic potatoes and other vegetables and fruits may not have the flawless, cosmetically perfect appearance of those that are sprayed and drenched with toxic chemicals, they undeniably have more flavor and nutrients.
In addition, buying local and organic can also bring about a strengthened sense of community and personal connection – as well as the civic pride of supporting local growers and merchants.
Remember, we are NOT powerless against these biotech behemoths and the GM crops they peddle – as long as we exercise our right to support local farmers and buy organic.