Operations Inside The Kettle Foods Inc. Potato Chip Production Facility
Operations inside a potato chip production facility. Photograph by Meg Roussos — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Genetically Modified Potatoes Are Making Their Way to the Produce Section

Jan 14, 2016

The FDA has just given its approval for a genetically modified potato.

The agency told J.R. Simplot, a potato supplier, on Tuesday that a variety of potato that the company has genetically engineered to resist disease is just as safe as any other tuber on the market, the Associated Press reports. The new variety has been engineered by Simplot to resist the late blight pathogen, which was responsible for the Irish potato famine and is still the most common pathogen in potatoes today. Resistance to late blight came from an Argentinian species that developed a natural defense against it.

"This will bring 24-hour protection to farmers' fields," Haven Baker, the vice president of plant sciences at Simplot, told the AP. It could help reduce pesticide spray by 25% to 45%. In addition to disease resistance, the genetically modified potato can also be stored at lower temperatures for longer periods of time, which would help reduce food waste.

The potato was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in August, and still pends approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The company expects to receive approval in December, at which point it will be cleared to enter the marketplace.

Despite the lack of evidence suggesting that genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, aren't safe for consumption, consumers tend to have a negative perception of them. Whole Foods (wfm) has promised to label GMO products while some retailers, and 16 European countries, refuse to sell them at all. McDonald's (mcd), one of Simplot's oldest partners, has rejected the use of its GMO potatoes, according to the AP.

Fortune has reached out to McDonald's for comment, and we will update the story once we hear back.

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