The Agriculture Department on Friday approved the first genetically modified potato for commercial planting in the United States, a move likely to draw the ire of groups opposed to artificial manipulation of foods.
The Innate potato, developed by the J.R. Simplot Co., is engineered to contain less of a suspected human carcinogen that occurs when a conventional potato is fried, and is also less prone to bruising during transport.
Boise, Idaho-based Simplot is a major supplier of frozen french fries to fast-food giant McDonald’s.
Friday’s announcement came from the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Simplot applied to APHIS for approval of the Innate potato in 2013. The submission was also reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.
Field trials of the potato were conducted from 2009 through 2011 in eight states — Florida, Indiana, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin.
Genetic modification is common in U.S. field crops such as corn and soybeans. More than 90 percent of U.S. soybeans and about 89 percent of U.S. corn are genetically altered for herbicide tolerance or other traits.
But the potential adoption of genetic modification has been more controversial in food crops such as wheat, where no GM varieties are approved in the United States, and for fruits and vegetables.
APHIS said it has received hundreds of submissions from individuals or groups about Simplot’s potato during a public comment period.
Among those opposing the potato were individuals and groups broadly opposed to the development of GM crops in general, as well as to the regulatory framework surrounding genetic modification, APHIS said.
The potential for human benefits — a lower cancer risk for consumers — was among the positives cited in public comments.