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Maine Approves 3 Types of GMO Potatoes

GMO
A field trial comparing conventional potatoes and Innate Gen 2 plants. Simplot

Last week, the Maine Board of Pesticides Control unanimously approved the registration of three new types of genetically engineered (GMO) potatoes developed by Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co., according to Bangor Daily News.


Maine is the last state in the country to approve the company's "Innate Generation 2" Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet and Atlantic potatoes, which were created by adding genes from a wild potato plant and are resistant to late blight, the publication reports.

The potatoes were cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last fall.

Sharie Fitzpatrick, a senior biotech regulatory manager at Simplot, said the company's potatoes are different from previous varieties, specifically Monsanto's discontinued NewLeaf transgenic potato that's spliced with the bug-repelling Bt gene that originates from a soil bacteria.

Rather, Simplot potatoes are cisgenic, or only contain genes from other potatoes, and would have been possible to create via cross-pollination, Fitzpatrick said.

"Once people understand that it's [potato-to-potato], they soften," she said. "It doesn't hit the same sort of emotional triggers."

However, GMO-opponents have a number of concerns.

"These GMO potatoes run the very strong risk of depressing demand for potatoes of all types, both organic and conventional," organic potato grower Jim Gerritsen of Maine's Wood Prairie Family Farm told Bangor Daily News. "There's a growing body of evidence that consumers do not want genetically engineered food."

More than half, or 57 percent, of U.S. adults believe that GMO foods are generally unsafe to eat, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey.

"What I worry about is that there will be a vague recollection that new potatoes will be genetically engineered," Gerritsen added. "That's going to damage every potato farmer. Not just organic ones but regular ones, too."

Following the board's vote on Friday, the GMO spuds can now be planted in Maine at any time.

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