Will We Now Be Eating Genetically Modified French Fries at McDonalds?

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I write this blog entry as an aside after reading a recent article in the US Times that the U.S.D.A. recently approved a genetically modified potato to be grown in the USA. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/08/business/genetically-modified-potato-from-simplot-approved-by-usda.html?_r=0

In summary the article articulates that the U.S.D.A. approved this new potato for commercial planting and that this new and improved version contains less acrylamide (which some suspect may cause cancer when fried) and was less easily bruised. Ironically, the company that will be producing this modified potato is also a major supplier of french fries to McDonalds.

Let me begin with my first skepticism about acrylamide. Though shown to cause increase the risk of cancer in rodents at high levels, no direct human connection has ever been made. Plus, a toxic level of acrylamide for human consumption has yet to be been ascertained. As a physician, I have followed medical literature for almost 2 decades and have read time and time again how many, if not most rodent medical, drug and clinical trials have no clinical relevance when dealing with humans. Thus, to make this leap of faith and undue what Mother Nature has created without hard facts is at best nearsighted and premature.

Second, what exact genes are they modifying so that the potato does not bruise? Is there a health benefit that a bruised potato possesses that we are now eradicating? Do the genes that cause bruising have some beneficial effect for the potato itself? Has anyone specifically asked these questions or looked into it before having the modified potato approved by the U.S.D.A?

Though the potato is modified using genes from the potato itself, does not mean that the exact desired effect will be achieved. What if tinkering with one of the potato’s genes causes unintended other genes to turn on or off in the process which lead to unintended consequences. What if these genetically modified potatoes are less hardy and will die more easily under temperamental environmental changes? What if these genetically modified potatoes cross germinate with other natural potatoes to produce an unwanted hybrid?

And finally, does the U.S.D.A have our, the people’s, interests in mind or are companies that produce the genetically modified foods somehow financially influencing them or our Congressmen to bring their products to the market? I don’t know, but I will make sure the next potato I eat will not be a Frankenpotato.

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