An unusual stand for the global burger champ: no genetically modified potatoes, not even from the company's biggest potato supplier.
McDonald’s isn’t known for being principled about its ingredients; just this year, the company had to issue a major public relations onslaught just to convince people that its Chicken McNuggets are not made from pink slurry. Despite that effort, when you think about fast food chains that are selective about raw ingredients, you think Chipotle, or maybe something like Panera — chains that continuously harp on their bonafides as ethical consumers.
A company called Simplot, an agribusiness conglomerate in the same league as Monsanto, is the main potato supplier for McDonald’s, which in turn is the largest purchaser of potatoes in the country. Simplot has recently come up with a new variety of genetically modified potato, which in the badly-named tradition of the SweeTango apple is called the Innate potato. That said, it’s a pretty interesting spud: most GMO foods are made by splicing genes from other plants in to make them resistant to pesticides, but that isn’t what Simplot’s doing at all.
The Innate potato is engineered to bruise less, keep for longer, resist browning when exposed to oxygen, and contain less of an amino acid called acrylamide (which was speculated back in 2002 to be carcinogenic). None of those qualities are flavor- or texture- or vitamin-related, but still, that quest would seem to be not so awful for GMO protestors. The issue many anti-GMO activists have with genetically modified plants is that they encourage the use of pesticides, which can in turn lead to mutated bugs resistant to bacteria — not the Innate potato.
But that hasn’t stopped McDonald’s from rejecting it. A spokesperson told Capital Press that the company will not use the Innate potato, nor any other GMO potato. Simplot, for its part, says it’ll market the non-browning Innate potato in pre-sliced packaging like apples, which sounds a little weird to us, but who knows? Maybe the market is crying out for pre-sliced genetically modified potatoes.
(Image via Flickr user Katy Warner)