Dr Kelly Chamberlin USDAARS receives a plaque from Mike Kubicek Executive Director retired Oklahoma Peanut Commission at the 2015  Peanut Expo

Dr. Kelly Chamberlin, USDA-ARS, receives a plaque from Mike Kubicek, Executive Director (retired), Oklahoma Peanut Commission, at the 2015 Peanut Expo.

No GMO peanut varieties exist, despite media speculation

News articles urging consumers to be wary of new peanut varieties that may be genetically modified are off base and simply wrong.

OLé peanut, a new Spanish peanut variety released earlier this year by the USDA Agricultural Research Service and the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station, is not a genetically modified organism.

“There are no GMO peanut varieties,” says Ron Sholar, executive director, Oklahoma Peanut Commission.

Sholar, in a recent email to Southwest Farm Press, said an article released by The American Society of Agronomy announcing release of the new variety was picked up by several “non-agricultural media outlets.” Some of those added another spin, implying that OLé could be a genetically modified organism. “The worst was in Men's Fitness.”

The article, after detailing the advantages of a high oleic Spanish peanut, added this caveat: “If you’re concerned about eating GM food, you’ll need to be extra-aware when these changes come into affect (sic). Most peanut butter on the market now is made from natural Spanish peanuts, but research is ongoing for several new brands.” [Editor’s note: Spanish peanuts are not used in peanut butter.]

“This kind of misinformation isn't just bad for OLé, it's bad for the industry,” Sholar said.

Kelly Chamberlin, the USDA peanut breeder who developed OLé, says the new variety was developed by crossing two varieties with different desirable traits. “OLé was developed using traditional plant breeding methods by crossing a peanut having a naturally occurring, high-oleic trait with another peanut plant that displayed disease resistance,” Chamberlin said.

“OLé, the result of this cross, is a peanut variety that combines the desirable traits of both parents.” 

These traditional plant breeding methods have been used in crop improvement for centuries.

The new variety offers benefits to consumers and producers. OLé is heart-healthier and has longer shelf life, both highly desirable attributes for consumers and the peanut industry. These benefits result from the enhanced level of oleic acid, a beneficial oil component and monounsaturated fat associated with reduced HDL cholesterol and blood pressure.

On the production side, OLé has good resistance to Sclerotinia blight and pod rot, two of the most serious diseases found in peanut fields, says John Damicone, OSU Extension plant pathologist.

Plant resistance means producers may reduce pesticide application and also increase production efficiency—good for production economics and a good for the environment.

OLé will be good for the industry, Sholar says, and the kind of misinformation readily accepted by the non-agricultural media and, subsequently, by uninformed consumers, creates a damaging and erroneous perception that may destroy trust in a food product that offers exceptional nutritional value.

“Peanut lovers, farmers, and the environment will all benefit from OLé,” says Sholar. “Consumers can enjoy heart-healthy peanuts with greater shelf life and farmers can grow peanuts using fewer pesticides, which is good for the environment.”   

For more information on OLé, contact John Damicone, Oklahoma State University, Extension plant pathology specialist at [email protected] or Ron Sholar, executive director, Oklahoma Peanut Commission at [email protected]

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