F.D.A. says genetically engineered apples, potatoes are safe

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration on March 20 said it had concluded two varieties of genetically engineered apples and six varieties of genetically engineered potatoes are as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc., Summerland, B.C., offers Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties of apples, known collectively by the trade name “Arctic Apples.” They are genetically engineered to resist browning by reducing levels of enzymes that have been shown to cause browning, which is associated with cuts and bruises in apples.

J.R. Simplot Co., Boise, Idaho, offers varieties of Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank and Atlantic potatoes under the trade name “Innate.” They are genetically engineered to reduce formation of black spot bruises by lowering the levels of certain enzymes in the potatoes.

The potatoes also produce less acrylamide as the genetic engineering lowers the levels of an amino acid called asparagine and lowers the levels of reducing-sugars. Acrylamide is a chemical that has been shown to form in some foods during high-temperature cooking such as frying, and it has been found to be carcinogenic in rodents, according to the F.D.A.

The F.D.A. said it encourages developers of food derived from genetically engineered plants to participate in a voluntary consultation process with the agency prior to commercial distribution. Okanagan Specialty Fruits and the J.R. Simplot Co. both submitted summaries of their safety and nutritional assessments to the F.D.A. After completing its evaluations, the F.D.A. on March 20 said it had no additional food safety questions at this time concerning food from the apple and potato varieties.
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