The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Maine Approves 3 Types of GMO Potatoes
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.
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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Ana Santos Rutschman
The world of food and drug regulation was rocked earlier this month by the news of a change in leadership at the Food and Drug Administration. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb resigned and will step down in early April. His temporary replacement is Dr. Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute.
On Wednesday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first 20 chemicals it plans to prioritize as "high priority" for assessment under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Given the EPA's record of malfeasance on chemicals policy over the past two years, it is clear that these are chemicals that EPA is prioritizing to ensure that they are not properly evaluated or regulated.
Which conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables in the U.S. are most contaminated with pesticides? That's the question that the Environmental Working Group answers every year with its "Dirty Dozen" list of produce with the highest concentration of pesticides after being washed or peeled.
Judge Blocks Oil and Gas Drilling on 300,000 Acres in Wyoming Until Government Considers Climate Impacts
Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."