Genetically modified potato

A genetically modified potato is a potato that has had its genes modified, using genetic engineering. Goals of modification include introducing pest resistance, tweaking the amounts of certain chemicals produced by the plant, and to prevent browning or bruising of the tubers. Varieties modified to produce large amounts of starches may be approved for industrial use only, not for food.

Amflora potatoes, modified to produce pure amylopectin starch

Currently marketed varieties


The genetically modified Innate potato was approved by the United States Department of Agriculture in 2014[1] and the US FDA in 2015.[2][3][4] The cultivar was developed by J. R. Simplot Company. It is designed to resist blackspot bruising, browning and to contain less of the amino acid asparagine that turns into acrylamide during the frying of potatoes. Acrylamide is a probable human carcinogen, so reduced levels of it in fried potato foods is desirable.[5][6] Though, browning does not affect the quality of the potato, it is simply that consumers tend to not want to purchase "damaged" or possibly spoiled[7] goods. The 'Innate' name comes from the fact that this variety does not contain any genetic material from other species (the genes used are "innate" to potatoes) and uses RNA interference to switch off genes. Simplot hopes that not including genes from other species will assuage consumer fears about biotechnology.[5]

The "Innate" potato is not a single cultivar; rather, it is a group of potato varieties that have had the same genetic alterations applied using the same process. Five different potato varieties have been transformed, creating "innate" versions of the varieties, with all of the original traits, plus the engineered ones. Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank, and Atlantic potatoes have all been transformed by Simplot, as well as two proprietary varieties. Modifications of each variety involved two transformations, one for each of the two new traits. Thus there was a total of ten transformation events in developing the different Innate varieties.[8]

McDonald's is a major consumer of potatoes in the US. The Food and Water Watch has petitioned the company to reject the newly marketed Innate potatoes.[9] McDonald's has announced that they have ruled out using Innate.[10]

Previously marketed varieties


In 1995, Monsanto introduced the NewLeaf variety of potato which was their first genetically modified crop. It was designed to resist attack from the Colorado potato beetle due to the insertion of Bt toxin producing genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. The insect-resistant potatoes found only a small market, and Monsanto discontinued the sale of seed in 2001.[11]


'Amflora' (also known as EH92-527-1) was a cultivar developed by BASF Plant Science for production of pure amylopectin starch for processing into waxy potato starch.[12] It was approved for industrial applications in the European Union market on 2 March 2010 by the European Commission,[13] but was withdrawn from the EU market in January 2012 due to a lack of acceptance from farmers and consumers.[14]

Unmarketed varieties

A modified Désirée potato was developed in the 1990s by biochemist[15] John Gatehouse at Cambridge Agricultural Genetics (later renamed Axis Genetics) and had gone through two years of field trials at Rothamsted Experimental Station.[16] The potatoes were modified to express the Galanthus nivalis agglutinin (GNA) gene from the Galanthus (snowdrop) plant, which caused them to produce GNA lectin protein that is toxic to some insects.[17][18] This variety of potatoes is the one which was involved in the Pusztai affair.

Other similar research - into transgenic Désirées, with antifeedant chemicals transferred from other plants, a few years before, with a researcher from Axis - was also done by a team including Gatehouse and his wife Angharad. At this time the Gatehouses were both at the University of Durham.[19]

In 2014, a team of British scientists published a paper about three-year field trial showing that another genetically modified version of the Désirée cultivar can resist infection after exposure to late blight, one of the most serious diseases of potatoes. They developed this potato for blight resistance by inserting a gene (Rpi-vnt1.1), into the DNA of Désirée potatoes. This gene, which conferred the resistance to blight, was isolated from a wild relative of potatoes, Solanum venturii, which is a native of South America.[20][21]

In 2017 scientists in Bangladesh developed their own variety of blight resistant GM potato.[22]


  1. Tracy, Tennille (November 20, 2014). "Genetically Modified Potato Wins Approval From USDA". Wall Street Journal.
  2. "Introducing Innate™ Technology". J. R. Simplot Company. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  3. "J.R. Simplot Company Petition (13-022-01p) for Determination of Non-Regulated Status for InnateTM Potatoes with Low Acrylamide Potential and Reduced Black Spot Bruise: Events E12 and E24 (Russet Burbank); F10 and F37 (Ranger Russet); J3, J55, and J78 (Atlantic); G11 (G); H37 and H50 (H)" (PDF). United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. March 2014. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  4. "FDA concludes Arctic Apples and Innate Potatoes are safe for consumption". U.S. Food and Drug Administration. March 20, 2015. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  5. Pollack, Andrew (7 Nov 2014). "U.S.D.A. Approves Modified Potato. Next Up: French Fry Fans". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  6. Glenza, Jessica (8 Nov 2014). "'Innate Potato' heads for market but GM watchdogs chip away at Simplot success". Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  7. Nutrition, Center for Food Safety and Applied (2022-01-10). "GMO Crops, Animal Food, and Beyond". FDA.
  8. von Mogel, Karl Haro (8 May 2013). "Q&A with Haven Baker on Simplot's Innate™ Potatoes". Biology Fortified, Inc. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  9. Charles, Dan (13 January 2015). "GMO Potatoes Have Arrived. But Will Anyone Buy Them?". NPR. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  10. Gunther, Marc (4 December 2013). "McDonald's GMO dilemma: why fries are causing such a fuss". Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  11. Kilman, Scott (21 March 2001). "Monsanto's Genetically Modified Potatoes Find Slim Market, Despite Repelling Bugs". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  12. "BASF drops GM potato projects". Chemistry World. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  13. "GM potato to be grown in Europe". The Guardian. 3 March 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  14. James Kanter for the New York Times. January 16, 2012. BASF to Stop Selling Genetically Modified Products in Europe
  15. "Professor J.A. Gatehouse – Durham University". Archived from the original on 2016-02-01. Retrieved 2015-04-26.
  16. Arpad Pusztai GM Food Safety: Scientific and Institutional Issues Science as Culture, Volume 11 Number 1 March 2002
  17. Ewen SW, Pusztai A (October 1999). "Effect of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine". Lancet. 354 (9187): 1353–4. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(98)05860-7. PMID 10533866. S2CID 17252112.
  18. Murdock, L. L.; Shade, R. E. (2002). "Lectins and Protease Inhibitors as Plant Defenses against Insects". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 50 (22): 6605–6611. doi:10.1021/jf020192c. PMID 12381159.
  19. Gatehouse, Angharad M.R.; Davison, Gillian M.; Newell, Christine A.; Merryweather, Andrew; Hamilton, William D.O.; Burgess, Elisabeth P.J.; Gilbert, Robert J.C.; Gatehouse, John A. (1997). "Transgenic potato plants with enhanced resistance to the tomato moth, Lacanobia oleracea: growth room trials". Molecular Breeding. Springer Science+Business. 3 (1): 49–63. doi:10.1023/a:1009600321838. ISSN 1380-3743. S2CID 23765916.
  20. McGrath, Matt (17 February 2014). "Genetically modified potatoes 'resist late blight'". BBC. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  21. Jones, J. D. G.; Witek, K.; Verweij, W.; Jupe, F.; Cooke, D.; Dorling, S.; Tomlinson, L.; Smoker, M.; Perkins, S.; Foster, S. (17 February 2014). "Elevating crop disease resistance with cloned genes". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 369 (1639): 20130087. doi:10.1098/rstb.2013.0087. PMC 3928893. PMID 24535396.
  22. Pieterse, Lukie (2017-01-06). "Bangladesh: GM potato crop ready for release". Potato News Today. Retrieved 2017-01-31.

Further reading

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