New potato helps feed growing world, prevent waste

By Lisa Patterson

For the Capital Press

New potato technology allows an Idaho farm family to grow a healthful crop and prevent unnecessary waste.

Every mother knows the feeling.

You go to the grocery store, buy a sack of potatoes, and come home to get that meal on the table fast — only to discover after peeling and slicing, you don’t have that clear, consistent color you were expecting. Instead you find internal bruising or black spots that you have to cut away. The wasted potatoes go in the garbage and you think, what a waste.

Wouldn’t it be nice if technology could prevent all of this hassle and waste?

Soon it will. A new potato that is the result of some exciting innovative technology is almost ready for market — and it’s developed to reduce black spot bruising and browning when cut.

The science is simple. Take the DNA from wild and cultivated potatoes and insert it into the tubers of other potatoes that produce seed. The result is a hardier potato that resists browning and has less bruising which can come from harvesting, shipping or storing. It also equals a long shelf life without additives, which is important.

I live in south-central Idaho, often referred to as the “Magic Valley.” It may sound like the name of a Disney princess movie, but it is our home and it’s ideal for growing potatoes.

My husband, Russell, and I own a family farm which grows a variety of crops, including potatoes. So, not only do I want to feed my own kids and grandkids a delicious and nutritious potato — we want to produce a potato that is capable of less waste and improved use by the consumer.

Yet, no matter how hard we try, we can’t keep them from bruising.

Harvesting potatoes, after all, involves digging them up out of the ground. Even with the special care we farmers take digging and delivering with the most modern specialized potato equipment available, the potatoes take unpreventable drops throughout the process.

It’s these drops that cause the potato bruising and damage that results in the waste in processing and also the wasted fresh potatoes that end up in our homes. This Innate technology is not only beneficial to the producer, but also beneficial to the consumer. Less waste means more produce to feed a hungry world, how amazing is that?

That’s why these new potatoes are so promising. Farmers who have worked with them in test plots say they have seen bruising reduced by half or more. The potatoes don’t taste any different. They are regular potatoes in every way, except they don’t bruise or brown as much.

Because of this very innovative development, one estimate says we will save 400 million pounds of potatoes each year. If you realize the significance of growing more food on less ground and meeting the need for increased production of food for a growing population, you will agree with me — this is exactly what we need. It’s doing more with less and these potatoes are a giant step in the right direction.

These potatoes are now at the end of a rigorous federal review. Food regulators have determined they are safe, grow just like other potatoes and do not pose any environmental risks to human health.

In June 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture wrapped up a second round of public comments. Approval for commercial use could come at any time.

Innate technology offers farmers yet another way to innovatively increase the quality and use of the potatoes that we produce. It will be beneficial to every person who loves eating potatoes and to every person who wants to do their part in sustainable food production.

One of the benefits of living on a potato farm: We eat what we grow. Like you, I want safe and nutritious food for my family. We are so lucky to have advanced science which enables us, as consumers, to enjoy an abundant food supply, and as a farm family it allows us to be sustainable guardians of the land we love and depend on.

Lisa Patterson and her husband live in Heyburn, Idaho. They grow potatoes, sugar beets, barley and corn on a family farm in Idaho’s “Magic Valley.” She is happily involved in the business side of the farm, but loves spending time with her family, friends and, especially, her grandchildren. Lisa joins the Truth About Trade and Technology Global Farmer Network, www.truthabouttrade.org



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