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Are Okinawan Purple sweet potato and Molokai Purple sweet potato GMO?

Are Okinawan Purple sweet potato and Molokai Purple sweet potato GMO products?

Submitted by: Jane


Expert response from Joe Guenthner

Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics, University of Idaho

Monday, 09/05/2016 11:19

Those sweet potato varieties are not modern GMOs. They could, however, be natural GMOS. Scientists at the International Potato Center and the University of Ghent in Belgium discovered that all 291 sweet potato varieties they tested, and some wild types, contained DNA from another species -- Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Simple one-celled bacteria living in the soil are the original genetic engineers.


By comparing wild to farmed varieties, the scientists concluded that Agrobacterium DNA has been in sweet potatoes for more than 8,000 years. Naturally, prehistoric humans chose to farm the types of sweet potatoes that best suited their needs.


One of the scientists, Jan Kreuze, said the foreign DNA helped the plant’s roots evolve into something edible. Ancient people in Central and South America selected the best plants and domestication of the sweet potato spread to Polynesia, then Asia, Europe and Africa.


I don’t know if Okinawan Purple and Molokai Purple were among the varieties tested.