Canada clears Simplot’s spot-resistant GM potato
Canada clears Simplot’s spot-resistant GM potato

Canada clears Simplot’s spot-resistant GM potato

By Grainews Staff
Originally published March 21, 2016, Grainews online


Potatoes modified for reduced bruising and black spots, and for lower levels of a chemical linked to health risks in baked spuds or fries, have picked up federal approvals.

The plant science arm of U.S. potato giant J.R. Simplot announced Monday its first-generation Innate Gen. 1 potato varieties have passed food and feed safety assessments by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency respectively.

The company said the approvals will allow it to bring Innate potatoes to the Canadian marketplace starting this year.

Innate Gen. 1 potatoes got regulatory approvals in the U.S. last year and are already sold in the U.S. fresh potato market under the White Russet brand.

Second-generation Innate potatoes, which include the same traits but also show resistance to late blight and “enhanced cold storage capability,” were also granted food safety approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January.

Health Canada, in its assessment, had no objection to sale of food made from Innate Gen. 1 potatoes, Simplot said.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), meanwhile, declared Innate potatoes as safe and as nutritious as traditional varieties in livestock feed, with no increased risk to the environment compared to other current potato varieties, the company added.

According to its notice of submission to CFIA, the Innate Gen. 1 varieties were modified with genetic elements from other potato varieties, with no marker genes inserted.

Simplot’s submission covered the use of the same genetic construct in Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet and Atlantic potatoes, to reduce black spot and lower the potential for acrylamide formation in processing.

The construct lowers the expression of native potato genes that produce asparagine and convert starch to reducing sugars.

Combined, the lower levels of free asparagine and reducing sugars are meant to limit potential for acrylamide to form when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures, such as in frying, baking or broiling.

Based on studies in rats, acrylamide is listed by the U.S. National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a probable human carcinogen, although other studies show differences between humans and rats in how quickly acrylamide is absorbed.

The gene construct also limits polyphenol oxidase, which leaks from damaged plastids in bruised or cut potatoes, causing darkening resulting in black spot.

Simplot said its research shows the bruise reduction trait can reduce bruising by up to 44 per cent and limit black spots and browning.

By reducing asparagine, Simplot added, acrylamide can be reduced by 52-69 per cent when Innate potatoes are cooked at high temperatures.

If all fresh Russet potatoes in Canada had Innate Gen. 1 traits, Simplot said, researchers estimate potato waste could be reduced by 400 million kilograms at the field, storage, packing, retail and foodservice levels.

Studies also suggested carbon dioxide emissions could be cut by 30 million kilograms, water usage cut by 5.6 billion litres, and 15,000 fewer pesticide hectare-applications would be needed, the company said.

“Innate potatoes reduce waste, enabling growers to be more efficient while giving consumers the opportunity to use more of what they pay for,” Simplot Plant Sciences general manager Haven Baker said in Monday’s release.

In an article last March in Grainews following U.S. approval for first-generation Innate potatoes, Ontario potato producer Peter VanderZaag said the approval was a step forward, “adding up to how we’re going to feed a growing global population.

“This is the reality: we need to use these technologies to help feed the world in a better way with less waste and less risk of carcinogenic effects,” he said. — Network