SUN VALLEY, Idaho — The biotech industry is working to shape a more balanced conversation on GMOs.

Attendees at the Idaho Grower-Shipper Association’s 86th annual meeting heard a presentation on biotechnology and the GMO conversation by Kate Hall, partnership and programs manager for food and agriculture with the Washington, D.C.-based Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Potato industry prepares for GMO offeringHall gave an overview of biotechnology and its increasingly critical role in global agriculture. Genetic engineering continues to offer the industry significant gains in sustainability, such as reducing herbicide and pesticide use and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Hall said the low level of consumer awareness about the engineering process and benefits of GMO agricultural products offers an opportunity for the industry to redefine the GMO conversation.

This conversation will become relevant to the potato industry when the first generation of Innate, a GMO potato, comes to the market next year.

Long-Term Development

Doug Cole, director of company marketing and communications for Boise, Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co., said his company has been developing the potato for 14 years, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture set to approve Innate this fall. Innate potatoes have been engineered for benefits to both growers and consumers, with low black spot bruising, low asparagine and low sugars for reduced browning when cut or processed, Cole said.

Consumers respond more positively when they are educated on a GMO product’s “consumer-facing” benefits, Hall said.

Simplot’s Innate potato promises to reduce shrink all along the supply chain, including up to a third of the 3 million pounds of potatoes that end up in consumer’s trash cans every year, Cole said.

An industry contribution to the GMO conversation is GMOAnswers.com, a website launched last year with funding from members of the Council for Biotechnology Information, including  Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, Dupont and Bayer CropScience. The site hosts user-submitted questions with answers from a pool of experts and sees a lot of traffic, Hall said.

Note on correction: The original article incorrectly identified the organization funding GMOAnswers.com.