WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2015 -- USDA has approved a potato genetically engineered by J.R. Simplot Co. to resist late blight, the disease that caused the Irish potato famine in the mid-19th century and still threatens crops around the globe. The department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced the “determination of nonregulated status” for the potato today in a brief statement.

Idaho-based Simplot says its Russet Burbank potato can also be stored at colder temperatures longer to reduce food waste. This is the second generation of what the company calls its Innate potato, a name chosen because the potato does not contain genes from other species like bacteria, as do many biotech crops.

The tuber includes the first generation’s reduced bruising and a greater reduction in a chemical called acrylamide, a suspected human carcinogen that potatoes produce naturally when cooked at high temperatures.

The second generation potato must still be approved by the Food and Drug Administration as safe for consumers. The FDA gave that approval for the first generation potato in March. Approval from EPA, which regulates genetically modified organisms, is also necessary.

In its petition for approval, Simplot said that the weight of evidence demonstrated that its potatoes are “unlikely to pose a plant risk.”

Privately held Simplot was one of the early supplies of frozen French fries to McDonald’s in the 1960s and is still a major supplier. The world’s largest restaurant chain, however, has said it has no plans to start using genetically modified potatoes.

Simplot Co. did not immediately respond to telephone messages requesting comment.


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