To the fast-food companies, who typically rely on small profit margins, the GM potatoes represent a cost-cutting opportunity and therefore extra profits. But critics, particularly in Europe where McDonald's has a huge business have raised such a swirl of questions and controversy around GM foods that fast-food companies have begun to worry about their reputations with customers. "The Europeans are absolutely against GM foods, regardless of science," said TIME business editor William Saporito. And with the fast-food companies anticipating a similar wave of consumer concern in the U.S., they figure there's no point in trying to fight. "They're better off being on the side of the perceived 'good guys,'" Saporito said.
McDonald's has decided to put public relations before profit in rejecting the use of genetically modified potatoes for its famed french fries. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that McDonald's, Frito-Lay and other fast-food and snack-food companies are pulling genetically modified (GM) potatoes from the fryer and quietly telling their suppliers to stick to non-GM varieties. In fact, potato wholesalers have received so many requests for non-genetically modified potatoes that they have asked farmers to stop growing the "NewLeaf" potato, developed by Monsanto, which is equipped with a gene that protects it from insects and disease. Heartier and cheaper to grow than conventional potatoes, GM potatoes also reduce environmental problems by eliminating the need for heavy use of pesticides.