CORRECTED: Potato industry prepares for GMO offering

08/29/2014 10:10:00 AM
Daniel Vanderhorst

(CORRECTED) SUN VALLEY, Idaho — The biotech industry is working to shape a more balanced conversation on GMOs.

Attendees at the Idaho Grower-Shipper Association’s 86th annual meeting heard a presentation on biotechnology and the GMO conversation by Kate Hall, partnership and programs manager for food and agriculture with the Washington, D.C.-based Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Kate Hall, with  Biotechnology Industry Organization, talks about GMOs at the Idaho Grower Shipper AssociationKate Hall, with Biotechnology Industry Organization, talks about GMOs at the Idaho Grower Shipper Association's annual meeting.Hall gave an overview of biotechnology and its increasingly critical role in global agriculture. Genetic engineering continues to offer the industry significant gains in sustainability, such as reducing herbicide and pesticide use and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Hall said the low level of consumer awareness about the engineering process and benefits of GMO agricultural products offers an opportunity for the industry to redefine the GMO conversation.

This conversation will become relevant to the potato industry when the first generation of Innate, a GMO potato, comes to the market next year.

LONG-TERM DEVELOPMENT

Doug Cole, director of company marketing and communications for Boise, Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co., said his company has been developing the potato for 14 years, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture set to approve Innate this fall. Innate potatoes have been engineered for benefits to both growers and consumers, with low black spot bruising, low asparagine and low sugars for reduced browning when cut or processed, Cole said.

Consumers respond more positively when they are educated on a GMO product’s “consumer-facing” benefits, Hall said.

Simplot’s Innate potato promises to reduce shrink all along the supply chain, including up to a third of the 3 million pounds of potatoes that end up in consumer’s trash cans every year, Cole said.

An industry contribution to the GMO conversation is GMOAnswers.com, a website launched last year with funding from members of the Council for Biotechnology Information, including  Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, Dupont and Bayer CropScience. The site hosts user-submitted questions with answers from a pool of experts and sees a lot of traffic, Hall said.

Note on correction: The original article incorrectly identified the organization funding GMOAnswers.com.



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Brandie Harrop    
Sherwood park  |  August, 30, 2014 at 11:29 AM

Some of the more vital functions that natural sugars and starches (carbohydrates) perform are storing and transporting energy and providing the building materials to construct the scaffolding that forms the supporting structure of cells. They also play major roles in the working of our immune system, fertilization in the reproductive system, clotting of blood as well as determining our blood type. Even the fundamental ‘codes’ of life (DNA and RNA) are carbohydrate-based chains of recurring molecules called polymers. So..... let's just take the sugars out of the food so it doesn't brown.... (face palm) http://www.health-choices-for-life.com/natural_sugars.html

Brandie Harrop    
Sherwood park  |  August, 30, 2014 at 11:44 AM

I was debating on making my potato patch larger to ensure that I have enough for the whole year so that I no longer have to purchase them. This GMO potato talk has convinced me that expanding to grow my own is not just a good idea but also a very necessary one.

Ben    
USA  |  September, 01, 2014 at 11:23 AM

These companies are not interested in our health, only in the cosmetic look and their profits. After Russia finished their own researches about GMO in spring, they outlawed it complete from their country. Indepentent research looks like is different then paid researches by Monsato and others. The Universities in Russia are not financed by the big GMO comapanies.

Marcuscassius    
September, 02, 2014 at 09:15 AM

Every potato farmer I have ever known has planted the potatoes for his family in a separate patch of farm land. Away from they crops they sell. The pesticide count is simply too high. Now they want top land GMO's on top of that? The RoundUp ready crops we already have failed at everything they claimed to do. They don't keep weeds down. They don't. They are supposed to decrease the amounts of pesticides used. They don't. Just more lies for profit, at our expense. Don't these crops burn?

Marcuscassius    
September, 02, 2014 at 09:18 AM

Private gardens are about the only thing that will help keep you alive. Believing in corporations is evolutionary. Trust them, and go the way of the dinosaur.

Ray Webb    
USA  |  September, 02, 2014 at 09:59 AM

The best for us consumers is to label the products GMO free or NO GMO, so we can decide what we want to eat. I just bought are jar of homemade vegetable spread made by Va-Va company in Macedonia. It says 100% Natural on the jar, but what does it mean?! My decision was made by the print NO GMO. I looked at other brands and no one had this information on it. I also found Potato chips from Boulder NON GMO Verified. The companies with NO GMO labels will make the business in the future. As the GMO promoters are fighting against a new labeling rule, companies are getting ahead of them by doing it reverse. When I’m shopping I only buy NO GMO labeled products.

Jonathon Harrington    
UK  |  September, 02, 2014 at 10:20 AM

In my experience you are quite probably right about this which is why we MUST have independent scientific arbitration and analysis. If we want to have private investment in science and technology (as opposed to public funding) we have to give the companies a reasonable hearing so they can have a chance to market the products they develop; one only has to study the role of private companies in improving yield and quality of crops in the past 70 years or so. The public sector is no better; look at the hundreds of deaths caused in Germany and California from eating 'organic' foods. Nobody has yet died from eating GM! Quite the reverse in fact!

    
September, 02, 2014 at 03:37 PM

Actually that is factually incorrect. Roundup Ready crops require less spraying and therefore less herbicide and fewer trips through the field. The glyphosate is sprayed when the plant is small and it kills the weeds then as the plants grow taller they naturally shade out the weeds. The Organic industry is still just an industry with corporations. Why would you think they are different from other corporations supplying food ?

Ray Webb    
USA  |  September, 02, 2014 at 03:46 PM

Hundreds of deaths caused in Germany from eating 'organic' foods. Where did you get this information from? How would you know some deaths are not caused by consuming GMO? Do you know what’s happen in the body’s chemistry after eating GMO? Just look at pig stomachs they have been feed for a period of time with GMO crops. Some animals avoid eating GMO crops, they rather starve to death. I don’t care if anybody wants the eat GMO products, some people are drinking raw milk or eat oysters with all the health consequences. What I want is to know what I eat and decide for myself. When GMO products are so healthy why is the industry so reluctant to put big labels on every product, Healthy GMO? They put claims about everything else on the food it it’s true or not!

Rick    
Lincoln, NE  |  September, 02, 2014 at 05:15 PM

The innate potato functions by slowing the conversion of starch to reducing sugars (glucose and fructose) during storage. These sugars react with amino acids, such as asparagine, to produce breakdown products including acrylamide. So by reducing the levels of these sugars in stored potatoes, we can significantly reduce the levels of toxic acrylamide that accumulates. Acrylamide is a substance regulated under California's Proposition 65. Currently, both conventional and organic potatoes employ methods to attempt to slow the rate of starch conversion during long-term storage. Traditional plant breeding has undergone efforts to reduce acrylamide and eliminate plant viruses and pests, however the progress has been slow and commercially ready solutions are many years away. Traditional breeding techniques simply result in random genomic rearrangements and trait segregation. By the way, the non browning feature is not the result of reducing the starch content or slowing the conversion of starch to sugars. Browning is caused by the polyphenol oxidase (PPO) enzyme that creates browning when cut or damaged and this enzyme is suppressed in the innate potato. By the way, at early stages of growth, most conventional potato varieties do not express the polyphenol oxidase (PPO) enzyme either so the Innate potatoes would be no different in this respect than young harvested potatoes that gardeners sometimes prefer.

Ralph Guy    
Eaton, Colo  |  September, 02, 2014 at 07:18 PM

This isn't necessarily true any more in the wake of glyphosate-resistant weeds. When RR crops first came out, it was 32-ounces over the top. Then weeds in the South got tougher and farmers had to make two apps. Then came palmer pigweed, the superweed of superweeds. Nowadays farmers are having to apply more pesticides because of not just palmer pigweed, but a bunch of other resistant weeds. Organic growers use pesticides, just not synthetic ones. Plus they're burning fossil fuels to use tractors to till weeds rather than using chemical herbicides.

Rick    
Lincoln, Ne  |  September, 03, 2014 at 10:33 AM

I said, "the non browning feature is not the result of reducing the starch content or slowing the conversion of starch to sugars. Browning is caused by the polyphenol oxidase (PPO) enzyme that creates browning when cut or damaged and this enzyme is suppressed in the innate potato" I should qualify that statement by saying that it was my understanding that the PPO enzyme was responsible for browning. I believe this or a similar enzyme in apples is what is suppressed in the Arctic Apple to avoid browning. However, the article quotes Doug Cole, one of the developers of the innate potato, suggesting that the suppression of sugar formation was a factor responsible for reduced browning. I suspect it is a combination but I'd defer to someone who has more direct knowledge.

Rick    
Lincoln, Ne  |  September, 03, 2014 at 03:13 PM

From How Stuff Works [http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/question168.htm]: "the browning reaction results from the oxidation of phenolic compounds in the fruit under the action of an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (PPO), which is common in plant tissues."

Rick    
Lincoln, Ne  |  September, 04, 2014 at 01:30 AM

Ben said "These companies are not interested in our health, only in the cosmetic look and their profits." There is more than a cosmetic issue at stake here. If you are wondering what the fuss about sugars in potatoes and other foods is about, check out the FDA's Acrylamide information site. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/ChemicalContaminants/ucm2006782.htm. See in particular the link to "Draft Guidance for Industry: Acrylamide in Food" and the discussion starting on page 6

Dr. JRF    
Georgia  |  September, 07, 2014 at 11:44 PM

Ray, I think the cases (& deaths) that Jonathon Harrington was referring to were those in 2011, which involved a deadly form of E. coli that contaminated fenugreek seed sprouts. You can find many articles on that subject via the popular press or via a web search. The strain of E. coli that caused the epidemic was O1O4:H4, which is a shigatoxin producing strain that causes bloody diarrhea if present in sufficient titer within the digestive tract. The implication from the post-epidemic investigation is that proper sanitation of the seed source may have been able to prevent it. In any case, it had nothing to do with GMOs. Frankly, I find all of this anti-GMO hype to be nothing but crass marketing. If a product is labeled non-GMO, I leave it on the store shelf and select other products that don't have that sort of labeling.

Ray Webb    
USA  |  September, 08, 2014 at 11:46 AM

Dr. JRF. The sprouts causing the outbreak in Germany where sold all over Europe by the britisch company Thompson & Morgan and nothing says they where organic. They delivered it to organic and conventionell growers. They don't know where they came from, as there is no traceback. From different African States, that's all it's known. Maybe the next batch comes in with Ebola, who knows, as no one knows where the stuff is coming from and handled it. The comparison between organic and GMO is silly enough anyway, as it should be between commercial grown and GMO.

Ray Webb    
USA  |  September, 08, 2014 at 11:46 AM

Dr. JRF. The sprouts causing the outbreak in Germany where sold all over Europe by the britisch company Thompson & Morgan and nothing says they where organic. They delivered it to organic and conventionell growers. They don't know where they came from, as there is no traceback. From different African States, that's all it's known. Maybe the next batch comes in with Ebola, who knows, as no one knows where the stuff is coming from and handled it. The comparison between organic and GMO is silly enough anyway, as it should be between commercial grown and GMO.

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