You Say Potato, I Say GMO

Now they’re just trying to tick us off.

As we read in Ruth L. Ozeki’s book All Over Creation (which does for potatoes what Ozeki’s first novel, My Year of Meats, did for the beef industry), conventionally grown potatoes are some of the most toxically grown items in the whole food chain. Especially when they’re grown on a scale that matches our fast-food nation’s response to “Want fries with that?”

Over the weekend, the Contra Costa County Times reported that “biologists have used gene technology to design a spud that’s tastier and resistant to unsightly bruises and sprouts.” Hmmm. Poisonous and genetically modified? Cool.

On the positive side, the modified potatoes that Idaho’s J. R. Simplot Co. (one of the world’s largest potato growers, with the perfect name for a company that wants to produce frankenfoods) is developing will delete the potentially cancer-causing acrylamides that surface in regular potatoes during frying.

Still, there’s no need to panic. Like the cloned meat that may be on the horizon, the “Russet Rangers” are at least five years away from the store shelves (and the McDonald’s fryer).

What’s interesting is that one of the ways Simplot is promoting these “gene-silenced” potatoes is that they will taste better than ordinary Russet Burbanks. Which most likely used to be flavorful before they had all the taste bred out of them in order to produce the kind of high-yield uniform crop that is needed to fuel the deep-frying industrial complex. Instead of monkeying around with gene splicing, maybe the Simplot Co. could just try to grow some more flavorful varieties—like some of these.

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