National Geographic : 2015 May
PHOTO: MARK THIESSEN, NGM STAFF Science EXPLORE This year a genetically engineered potato may hit a grocery store near you. Using a technique called RNA interference (RNAi), scientists have silenced genes that lead potatoes to bruise and to brown when exposed to air—the two characteristics that land roughly 30 percent of harvested potatoes in the trash. These new spuds also contain up to 70 percent less of an amino acid that transforms into a cancer-causing compound at high temperatures. A second version will be resistant to late blight, the disease that caused the Irish potato famine. The J. R . Simplot Company that created the potato calls it Innate since it doesn’t contain genes from other species. Even so, McDonald’s won’t be serving it. RNAi is a “very routine procedure in research,” says Kent Bradford, a biologist at the University of California, Davis, but “the marketing situation for genetically engineered products is toxic.” —Rachel Hartigan Shea Hot Potatoes One day after slicing, ordinary potatoes had turned brown; the genetically engineered potatoes remained pale.