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article imageYet another food product has been approved by the FDA

By Karen Graham     Jan 13, 2016 in Food
The Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday that a potato genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine is as safe as any potato on the market.
Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co. has passed another hurdle in its quest to market its genetically engineered potato seeds after being told the product doesn't differ substantially in composition or safety than other products on the market.
The FDA added that no issues were raised that would require the agency to conduct more stringent premarket testing.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the potato in August 2015.
"We're pleased and hope that consumers recognize the benefits once it's introduced into the marketplace next year," Doug Cole, the company's director of marketing and communications, said Wednesday. Cole says the potato has to be cleared by the Environmental Protection Agency later this year before they can market the potato to the public.
This latest potato is a second-generation of Simplot's "innate" brand potatoes, called Russet Burbank Generation 2, It contains the first version's reduced bruising, but less of some kind of chemical that is produced at high temperatures that has been found to cause cancer, according to Phys.Org.
But a chemical that causes cancer at high temperatures aside, this second-generation potato has been engineered with a special trait, allowing the potatoes to be stored at colder temperatures to avoid spoilage, thus saving food.
Potatoes infected with late blight are shrunken on the outside  corky and rotted inside.
Potatoes infected with late blight are shrunken on the outside, corky and rotted inside.
Haven Baker, vice president of plant sciences at Simplot, said "late blight," the cause of the Irish potato famine, remains the number 1 pathogen for potatoes around the world. "This will bring 24-hour protection to farmers' fields and, in addition, has the potential to reduce pesticide spray by 25 to 45 percent," Baker said, according to ABC News.
Baker talked about the over 4,000 species of potatoes in the world, and how by introducing the genes of a particular Argentine potato species known to be resistant to the pathogen into the company's new potato, "we can bring sustainability and consumer benefits."
The company has already sold out its 2014 crop of "innate" potatoes and are currently selling their 2015 crop of around 2,000 acres. Most of the potatoes were grown in Idaho and Wisconsin and sold in supermarkets nationwide. It should be noted that McDonald's, one of Simplot's biggest customers, has rejected using any of the company's genetically engineered potatoes.
The culprit that caused the Irish potato famine
Phytophthora infestans, is the pathogen responsible for the Irish potato famine, or as it is called today, late blight or potato blight. P. infestans is actually a kind of fungus or water mold, in a class called oometocota. It has been linked to the 1840s European, the 1845 Irish and 1846 Highland potato famines.
It is very true that P.infestans continues to be a big headache for potato farmers around the world. In 2012, researchers discovered the genome of this pathogen was a mixture of gene-dense regions and much bigger gene-light regions. The DNA of the mold has been continually evolving, making P. infestans a critical threat to the world's food supply.
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