Ten hours after being cut, the innate potato (left) shows considerably less browning than a conventional potato.
Ten hours after being cut, the innate potato (left) shows considerably less browning than a conventional potato.

The J.R. Simplot Co.’s new genetically modified Innate potato — recently approved for nonregulated status by the U.S. Department of Agriculture — predictably evokes strong reactions from supporters and detractors.

The potato industry needs to monitor its reception in the market very closely.

Many growers sent messages to USDA during the official comment period that the GMO potato has benefits for the entire potato industry short and long term.

However, because consumer reaction to GMO food can be so volatile, many grower-shippers will keep as far away from the potato as they possibly can in the near term.

That will be pretty easy to do, since Simplot only plans on about 400 acres of Innate potatoes for 2015, apparently mostly destined to the domestic fresh market via a few unidentified marketers.

Given other ongoing industry challenges to boost consumption and profitability, potato marketers and retailers don’t necessarily need this hot potato, especially if it creates confusion about whether the potatoes at the local supermarket are genetically modified.

Additionally, explaining to consumers that this potato is low in acrylamide is problematic.

We can see a consumer saying “Is acrylamide bad? Has it always been in potatoes? Is it high in all the other potatoes? I’ll just get the rice instead.”

For now, keeping the limited supply of GM potatoes segregated and appropriately identified is necessary to win the long-term trust of consumers.

The road to market acceptance for the Innate potato will be rocky at the start, despite its merits.

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