Today the advocacy group Food & Water Watch delivered a letter signed by more than 100,000 Americans telling the fast food giant to go a step further and agree not to source a new genetically engineered potato from one of its main potato suppliers that is up for approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The “Innate” brand GE potato pending regulatory approval was developed by J.R. Simplot, currently McDonald’s leading potato supplier for its “world famous” fries. The five GE varieties of Simplot’s potatoes up for approval have reduced black spot bruising and are less likely to produce the chemical acrylamide when fried (some studies have linked acrylamide to cancer). These potatoes will be used as frozen fries, potato chips and shoestrings, which make up approximately 50 percent of the potato market in the United States, according to the company.
McDonald’s, which controls 15 percent of the fast-food market, is the largest purchaser of potatoes in the United States. According to a 2009 Associated Press article, McDonald’s buys more than 3.4 billion pounds of U.S. potatoes annually.
“While it’s a step on the right direction for McDonald’s to say they currently don’t have plans to use the genetically engineered apple, apples are small potatoes compared to the amount of potatoes McDonald’s uses on a daily basis,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch and author of the book Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America. “If this new GE potato is approved, McDonald’s has the power to make it ubiquitous and consumers will never know that the fries in their kids’ Happy Meal contain DNA genetically altered in a lab.”
Food & Water Watch submitted more than 40,000 comments to the USDA in July encouraging them not to approve the potato. However, it is possible that USDA could release its Environmental Assessment and finding of no significant impact (FONSI) any day now. After that point, there could only be one more opportunity for public comment before its approval.
“Poll after poll shows that consumers want to know whether or not their food is genetically engineered. These 100,000 people who have joined us in calling on McDonald’s further prove that Americans are fed up with being guinea pigs in the science experiment of under-tested, unlabeled and potentially unsafe GE foods. Agreeing to buy this biotech potato will put McDonald’s reputation for its world-famous fries at risk.”
*McDonald’s announcement that it has no “current plans to source the Arctic apple variety” was in response to a request by the environmental group Friends of the Earth.
Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.
Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.