Following the recent U.S. Department of Agriculture approvals of two varieties of genetically engineered apples and six varieties of genetically engineered potatoes, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has conducted its own evaluation and concluded these products are “as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts.”

“Arctic Apples” have been genetically engineered by Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. to resist the natural browning that occurs around cuts and bruises. The innate potatoes — also referred to as Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank, and Atlantic potatoes — will have less black spot bruises and significantly less acrylamide than conventional spuds, said the potatoes’ maker J. R. Simplot Company. Acrylamide is a potential carcinogen that forms when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures, such as frying.

The new innate varieties of potatoes are expected to be available in limited quantities beginning in 2015. Simplot said in a statement that it uses the techniques of modern biotechnology to accelerate the traditional breeding process. The innate potatoes’ new traits arise from genes provided by cultivated or wild potatoes.

“Unlike traditional methods of breeding, which introduce random mutations associated with dozens of genes, the method used to develop Innate potatoes is precise,” Dr. David S. Douches, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Michigan State University, said in a statement. “This potato delivers significant health and sustainability benefits, all by using the potato’s own DNA. Such advancements haven’t been possible using traditional breeding.”

Meanwhile, the company has placed a second generation of innate potatoes under review by both the USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency. The as yet unapproved varieties will offer additional improvements, including increased resistance to blight disease and better storability. The company believes such innovations will reduce food waste while meeting demand for more sustainable crops.

Do Americans Require 'Cosmetic Appeal'?

In its letter to Okanagan, the FDA noted that “it is a producer’s or distributor’s responsibility to ensure that labeling of the foods it markets meet applicable legal requirements, including disclosure of any material differences in the food.”

According to the Non-GMO Project, the relatively new science of genetic engineering “creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.” This nonprofit organization suggests GMO products contribute to health problems, environmental damage, and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights. In particular, the project stresses that the long-term effects are unknown and “once released into the environment, these novel organisms cannot be recalled.”