Two potato varieties genetically engineered to withstand the bacteria that caused the Irish potato famine could soon be heading to dinner tables. The Department of Agriculture has approved planting of JR Simplot's Ranger Russet and Atlantic varieties of Innate potatoes, reports the AP. The potatoes—which have only potato genes but add an Argentine potato's resistance to late blight, which caused the Irish potato famine—will undergo a voluntary review by the FDA and EPA before potentially heading to supermarkets in the spring. They could be joined by a third potato variety, the Russet Burbank, already approved for planting and now awaiting EPA approval.
JR Simplot Co. says the potatoes are similar to its first generation of Innate engineered potatoes, on the market for more than a year, in that they will have fewer black spots and bruising to reduce waste, less of a potential carcinogen created when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures, and the ability to be kept in cold storage longer than other potato varieties. But "the introduction of late blight resistance in Innate varieties is a game changer, one that has the potential to dramatically reduce the environmental impact of potato growing by reducing pesticide use," a potato pathologist says, per the Packer. JR Simplot suspects it can cut fungicide use to control late blight by 50%. (Read more potatoes stories.)