Go figure: McDonald's is refusing to buy a GMO potato despite its approval by the USDA.
The Golden Arches have been in business with J.R. Simplot Co., an Idaho-based potato company (is there an Idaho-based anything else?) for decades. Recently, however, J.R. Simplot came up with a genetically modified potato called the "Innate"*: it's designed to produce less acrylamide than ordinary potatoes when cooked at high temperatures. There's suspicion acrylamide is carcinogenic to humans, which means these potatoes were at least designed with the goal of being healthier for people (they also are bruise-resistant, and thus more profitable). McDonald's, though, wants no part of the new potato.
It's pretty bold for McDonald's to proudly proclaim they don't use genetically-modified foods when you can only consider what they do produce "food" by an extremely generous definition — especially true when you consider that if McDonald's meat is organic,** then I am the Queen of England. Make no mistake: this is entirely about the fear of a public backlash for accepting a genetically modified potato.
McDonald's is also likely drastically overrating how much the inclusion of GMO products would hurt their profits or turn off their core customer base. They're never going to pull in the artisanal hipster or granola crowds regardless of their GMO food policies, and who else would even care about their use of GMO's? Sure, they'd get angry letters about it and people cut from the same cloth as anti-vaxxers would stage protests, but the people likely to organize and engage in those activities aren't going to be eating there anyway.
So, sure, McDonald's, feel free not to buy GMO potatoes. Just know that doing so isn't gaining you anything.
* Regardless of how you feel about GMO's, I think this name might qualify as a workable definition of irony.
** It's worth noting that the factory farm system, whatever else you want to say about it, is already contributing a tremendous amount of harm to the human race in terms of its inexorable march towards the creation of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. This isn't a theoretical issue like the idea that GMO's might have effects we can't yet see: this is an observable trend the CDC has been shouting about for years, only we're not listening to them because it's not convenient for us to do so. I would venture to say that the harm the antibiotic practices of the factory farm industry are already doing far outstrips the only-theorized dangers of GMO's. Welcome to America, where the importance of buzzwords far outstrips that of real, provable dangers.
Image via MaraZe/Shutterstock.