GMO Potatoes and How to Avoid Them

GMO potatoes: the latest. As of May, 2017 there are at least 9 approved varieties of genetically engineered potatoes in the US. The GMO potato made it to #4 (out of 15) on our updated list of GMO foods.

The potato is a major staple in the Western diet and source of energy through carbohydrates. Indeed, potatoes are very popular, therefore patenting them through genetic modification is highly lucrative.

Genetically modified potatoes are engineered to withstand bruising, viruses, fungi, and bugs. GE potatoes are also expected to exhibit low levels of acrylomide – a carcinogenic toxin produced by cooking potatoes. (Source: www.innatepotatoes.com)

J.R. Simplot is one of the largest suppliers of potatoes in the US. J.R. Simplot’s new generation of GMO potatoes is expected to be more marketable. It’s called “Innate.” In the Summer of 2014 about 400 acres worth of Simplot Innate GMO potatoes sold at Midwest and Southeast grocery stores.

Simplot aims to significantly increase it’s output of genetically engineered potatoes in 2017 by planting more than 6000 acres. These GMO potato varieties come from: Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet, Atlantic, and Snowden potato cultivars. (Source: USDA APHIS)

Genetically engineered potatoes don’t bruise or turn brown when cut, unlike non-gmo potatoes. GE potatoes will be marketed to grocery stores and restaurants due to their longer shelf life and “prettier” appearance. J.R. Simplot has been the main supplier of potatoes to McDonald’s. Even so, McDonald’s made a pledge that it won’t be buying Simplot’s Innate GMO potatoes.

Special Note: Potatoes, just like tomatoes are part of the Nightshade family. People who follow AIP (Autoimmune Protocol diet) or people with leaky gut tend to avoid members of the Nightshades, since they are thought to be irritating to the gut regardless of GMO status.

Different varieties of potatoes. Image credit: Scott Bauer, USDA ARS

Different varieties of potatoes. Image credit: Scott Bauer, USDA

How to Avoid GMO Potatoes?

  1. Buy certified organic potatoes. The surest way to avoid the GMO potato is to make sure your potatoes are organic. Organic farming specifically prohibits use of GMOs. The other benefit is that your potatoes won’t be grown in artificial chemical concoctions of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, bio-sludge, irradiation, and other unhealthy farming methods.
  2. Avoid non-organic processed food with potato ingredients. This includes frozen meals with potatoes, powdered potatoes (including mashed potato powders), canned soups with potatoes, potato chips, etc.
  3. Avoid Russet-looking potatoes when eating out. Unless the company or the food prep manager can tell you with 100% certainty that the potatoes they use are 100% non-gmo. This includes restaurants (big and small, fast and slow), deli departments, ready-made-meals at grocery and convenience stores, gas stations. The amount of Russet, Snowden, and Atlantic varieties of potatoes being GMO is increasing over time.
  4. Switch to sweet potatoes. If organic potatoes are not available or the non-gmo potato status cannot be verified, opt-in for the sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are healthy and delicious. Currently there is no GMO sweet potato on the market. There are several varieties of sweet potatoes. They can be identified by their color on the inside such as the purple “Okinawa,” the orange sweet potato, the yam, and the white sweet potato. Our personal favorites are the purple and the orange organic sweet potato.
  5. Switch to non-Russet potatoes. If organic potatoes or sweet potatoes are not available or the non-gmo potato status cannot be verified you can reduce your chances of bying GMO by getting potato varieties that haven’t been genetically modified. So, stay away from: Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet, Atlantic, and Snowden potato cultivars. These can be identified by light brown skin and off white inside.
  6. Switch to other sources of non-gmo carbs. Potatoes are carbs. Carbs are required by our bodies for energy production. Too much or too little carbs is not good. Other sources of non-gmo carbs, other than the sweet potatoes mentioned above include: rice, carrots, pumpkin, beans, pasta, bread (if made with non-gmo ingredients) etc. Basically any carb or starch that’s not on our list of GMO Foods.
  7. Grow your own! Gardening is fun, grounding, and connects us directly to what sustains us: our food, water, the Sun, nature. Potatoes are relatively easy to grow. There are techniques using barrels or large pots that allow you to really multiply the harvest substantially by adding more and more soil into the container as the potato grows. You can even go to a grocery store or farmers market to get your initial potato starters. Just make sure you start with fresh organic potatoes.
Organically grown Russet Burbanks potatoes. Image credit: Steve Caruso

Organically grown Russet Burbanks potatoes. Please note: GMO version exists. Image credit: Steve Caruso

Blue Swede (non-gmo) purple potato variety. Image by Paebi

Blue Swede (non-gmo) purple potato variety. Image by Paebi