USDA seeks further comments on genetically engineered spud

05/30/2014 10:04:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

Innate potatoCourtesy J.R. SimplotThe Innate Russet potato looks identical to a non-engineered Russet potato.The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking public comments on an environmental assessment and a plant pest risk assessment for a potato genetically engineered to have fewer acrylamides and reduced bruising.

The department published the comment request in the May 30 Federal Register.

The potato, branded as Innate, was developed by J.R. Simplot Co., Boise, Idaho.

Innate Technology involves inserting genes from potatoes that quiet specific functions, such as bruising or asparagine production.

Asparagine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in potatoes. When mixed with sugars ― such as those also found naturally in potatoes—and then subjected to high temperatures, asparagine forms acrylamide.

Those high temperatures may occur during frying, baking or roasting.

Acrylamide also is found in other foods, such as roasted coffee, cereals, breads and many baked goods.

During the past decade, the compound has come under scrutiny as a possible carcinogen.

The USDA initially sought public comments last summer on Simplot's original petition to have the potato deregulated, according to the Federal Register notice.

The department received 308 comments on the initial proposal that was published in July 2013. One of the documents had electronic attachments that represented nearly identical letters for a total of 41,475 comments.

The comments ranged from supporting deregulated status because of human health benefits to a total ban because of concerns about human health, potato production, export markets and plant fitness.

From those comments, the USDA prepared a draft environmental assessment and a draft plant pest risk assessment, both of which it has put out for public comment.

After reviewing the comments, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will revise the documents as necessary and prepare a final environmental assessment.

Based on the final assessment, the department can either issue a finding of no significant impact or require that a full-blown environmental impact statement be prepared.

For more information, including how to submit comments, view the Federal Register.

Deadline to submit comments is June 30.



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Barbara Peirce    
19310  |  June, 05, 2014 at 09:09 AM

Very interesting that the USDA claims to have received only 308 comments, but that ONE of the comments had electronic attachments with "Almost identical letters," for a total of "41,475 comments." Does this mean that they discounted the comment of more than 41,000 people, because they were part of an online letter writing campaign? If they USDA is choosing to disregard online commentary, then we need to make phone calls. It would be REALLY HARD to overlook 41,000 telephone calls! Look what happened when the EPA received just over 10,000 calls from Moms!

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