Target: United States Department of Agriculture Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack
Goal: Do not approve newly introduced genetically engineered potato for public consumption until it is tested for long-term health effects
Recently, the biotech company J.R. Simplot introduced five new genetically engineered types of potatoes. The company claims that these new potatoes have been engineered to resist bruising, and to “have less of a natural but potentially cancer-causing neurotoxin, acrylamide.” The company has asked the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to approve the genetically engineered crops for sale and consumption.
This is not the first time that a company has tried to introduce genetically engineered potatoes to the market. In the 1990s, the United States agricultural company Monsanto attempted to obtain approval by the USDA for a genetically altered potato that was resistant to insect pests. Monsanto used genes from synthetic bacteria to achieve this, but the genetically engineered food was not approved.
Unlike the potatoes produced by Monsanto, J.R. Simplot asserts that its newly created crops consist only of potato genes, making them “one hundred percent potato.” J.R. Simplot’s vice president of plant scientists, Haven Baker claims that “his scientists journeyed inside the vegetable’s genome to silence unwanted attributes,” without incorporating genes of other species. In a statement that reflects the potential desire of the company to market their genetically engineered potato as a “healthy” alternative to natural potatoes, he claimed that one will “never get as much beneficial effect from traditional plant breeding… and it’ll take twice as long.”
However, the long-term effects of this new, genetically engineered potato are entirely unknown. The crop has not been rigorously tested for potential health effects despite the fact that modifying enzymes in a plant or crop can inadvertently impact other features of the crop. These unintended consequences can have alarmingly detrimental impacts on human health.
J.R. Simplot is still trying to get USDA approval for its genetically engineered potatoes, with or without adequate testing for potential negative effects of the crop. They hope to sell the bruise-resistant potatoes to large companies such as McDonalds, which will send back heavily bruised potatoes. Furthermore, these potatoes will likely end up on grocery store shelves and in processed products where they will be not be labeled as genetically engineered foods.
Demand that the USDA not approve J.R. Simplot’s genetically engineered potatoes until full, extensive tests have been conducted on the potential effects of these modified foods.
Dear USDA Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack,
Recently, the biotech company J.R. Simplot has been attempting to obtain approval for five new types of genetically engineered potatoes. While the potatoes are allegedly resistant to bruising and contain lower levels of the potentially cancerous neurotoxin acrylamide, the possible negative health effects of these crops have not been fully tested.
When foods are genetically modified, it is not uncommon for unintended consequences to occur. These can range from harmless to seriously dangerous in terms of human health. In the case of J.R. Simplot’s genetically engineered potatoes, the effects are entirely unknown.
I strongly urge you to deny approval for these genetically engineered crops until full, thorough tests are conducted on the long-term safety of these food products.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Tahir Mahmood via Wikimedia Commons