The J.R. Simplot Co.’s freshly approved genetically modified potato is not being welcomed by one of the company’s oldest business partners.
McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast-food company and a longtime buyer of Simplot potatoes for french fries, says it doesn’t plan to buy Simplot’s latest genetically modified organism, the Innate potato.
“McDonald’s USA does not source GMO potatoes, nor do we have current plans to change our sourcing practices,” the company said in a statement.
The Innate line of potatoes received federal approval Nov. 7 to go to market. The potatoes have fewer sugars than conventional potatoes and less asparagine, which has the potential to become a carcinogen – acrylamide – when fried. The modified potato contains only potato genes, not genes from other organisms. Hence its name, “Innate.”
Simplot spokesman Doug Cole didn’t address the company’s plans to sell to the fast-food industry or the dehydrated potato industry, which both have urged growers against planting GMO potatoes. But Cole said the fresh potato market would embrace Innate.
Consumers will be receptive to the reduced sugars and lower levels of asparagine, which causes the chemicals reaction responsible for the formation of acrylamide in fried food Cole said. Because only 400 test acres of Innate varieties were planted and harvested this fall, production can’t ramp up until after the 2015 harvest, he said.
Rupert potato grower Duane Grant said he’s been told by buyers in the dehydrated potato industry not to plant the GMO potatoes. He hopes to line up willing buyers so that he can plant the biotech potatoes and reap the higher yields that come with their reduced bruising, he said.
This isn’t the first time the fast-food industry has resisted GMO potatoes. More than a decade ago, Monsanto brought its bug-resistant “New Leaf” line of genetically modified potato to market. Buyers, led by the fast-food industry, rejected the Monsanto spud, and it was pulled from production due to lack of business.
Grant said consumers will be more receptive to Innate because it benefits them, not just growers.
The key for Simplot and for growers, Grant said, will be persuading the food industry, which is worried about consumer backlash, to trust the product.
“Brand equity is extremely important to quick-serve restaurants,” Grant said. “They will avoid conflict whenever possible in order to protect equity of their brand name.”