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100,000 Americans Tell McDonald’s to Pass on Biotech Fries

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100,000 Americans Tell McDonald’s to Pass on Biotech Fries

Food & Water Watch (FWW) delivered a letter signed by more than 100,000 Americans telling fast-food giant McDonald's not to buy a new genetically engineered organism (GMO)—a potato from one of its main suppliers that is up for approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The Innate brand GMO potato that awaits regulatory approval was developed by J.R. Simplot, which is McDonald’s leading potato supplier for its fries. The five GMO varieties of Simplot’s potatoes up for approval are engineered to reduce black spot bruising and are less likely to produce the chemical acrylamide when fried (some studies have linked acrylamide to cancer).

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These potatoes will be used as frozen fries, potato chips and shoestrings, which make up about half of the potato market in the U.S., according to the company.

McDonald’s, which controls 15 percent of the fast-food market, is the largest purchaser of potatoes in the U.S. McDonald’s buys more than 3.4 billion pounds of U.S. potatoes annually, according to a 2009 Associated Press article.

“If this new genetically engineered potato is approved, McDonald's has the power to make it ubiquitous and consumers will never know that the fries in their kids’ Happy Meal contain DNA genetically altered in a lab,” said Wenonah Hauter, FWW executive director and author of the book Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America.

FWW submitted more than 40,000 comments to the USDA in July encouraging it to not approve the potato. However, it is possible that USDA could release its Environmental Assessment and finding of no significant impact (FONSI) any day now. After that point, only one more public comment period is available before approval.

“Poll after poll shows that consumers want to know whether their food is genetically engineered," Hauter said. "These 100,000 people who have joined us in calling on McDonald’s further prove that Americans are fed up with being guinea pigs in the science experiment of under-tested, unlabeled and potentially unsafe GE foods. Agreeing to buy this biotech potato will put McDonald’s reputation for its world-famous fries at risk.”

On Nov. 8, McDonald’s announced it had no plans to use the genetically engineered Arctic apple McDonald’s in response to a request by the environmental group Friends of the Earth.

“While it’s a step on the right direction for McDonald’s to say they currently don’t have plans to use the genetically engineered apple, apples are small potatoes compared to the amount of potatoes McDonald’s uses on a daily basis,” Hauter said.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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