UPDATED: GMO apple takes another step toward approval - The Packer

UPDATED: GMO apple takes another step toward approval

11/08/2013 03:45:00 PM
Andy Nelson

(UPDATED COVERAGE, Nov. 14) The U.S. Department of Agriculture is asking for public comment on a risk assessment of a genetically modified non-browning apple.

In August, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service ruled that the Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny apples, varieties grown by Summerland, British Columbia-based Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., were unlikely to pose a plant health or environmental risk.

Arctics, which are genetically modified to prevent browning, have been grown in field tests in Washington since 2003 and in New York since 2005.

In a notice published in the Nov. 8 Federal Register, APHIS announced it was seeking public comment for its plant pest risk and draft environmental assessments of the Arctics.

Public comments will be received through Dec. 9. This is the second round of public comments on the Arctics. In 2012, in the first round of public comments, 1,935 comment were filed, overwhelmingly in opposition.

The Arctic has generated opposition in the U.S. because of its genetically modified status. On Oct. 31, baby food maker Gerber said it had no plans to use Arctics. On Nov. 1, fast food giant McDonald’s said it had no plans to serve them.

Wendy Brannen, director of consumer health and public relations for the Vienna, Va.-based U.S. Apple Association, said that while the USDA has found no evidence that Arctics are unsafe, consumers who don’t want to buy them have many other apple varieties to choose from.

“Inevitably, the marketplace will determine whether there is viable demand,” Brannen said.

Neal Carter, Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ president, said the company expects Arctics to be deregulated by the USDA in early 2014, paving the way for U.S. production. Canada also is expected to green-light the variety about the same time.

“Growers in both Canada and the U.S. have shown strong interest in planting Arctic apples,” Carter said.

If Arctics are deregulated as scheduled, there are only enough trees for three or four growers to plant them in 2014, Carter said. And even as more trees become available, fruit won’t ship in volume for years.

“It will be a slow ramp-up,” Carter said. “It will be a long stretch before they’re available in many grocery stores.”

Carter encouraged people with concerns about the Arctic to visit the company’s website, okspecialtyfruits.com.

“There’s a tremendous amount of pseudo-science and paranoia around the anti-GMO movement,” he said. “These are the safest apples on the planet. They’ve been looked at exhaustively from a range of angles. They do not pose a risk.”

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November, 11, 2013 at 09:13 AM

I'm reading between the lines and see that the 'public comment' period is just another 'lie' to try and fool the public into believing that the govt is interested in getting their input or opinions on the matter. Fact is that they have already decided to approve this and the public opinion, no matter what it is, will have absolutely zero impact whatsoever. Anyone else read the tea leaves this way-or am I becoming too cynical in my old age?

November, 11, 2013 at 09:49 AM

I'd say you're being a bit cynical here, as if you read the documents, they are go into extensive detail (83 pages and 23 pages) as to why Arctic apples would not present a risk. Additionally, they describe how they arrive at their conclusions by detailing the testing done, much of it independent, over the past decade of field trials. To me, that sounds like a rigorous review, especially for an apple that's had its genes silenced via other apple genes and has no novel proteins!

November, 11, 2013 at 09:13 AM

This is a GMO that the apple industry doesn't want, two major users of apples don't want, and is a "fix" for a problem that doesn't exist. It is extremely cheap and easy to prevent browning with a number of safe, proven techniques. This product will hurt the apple industries reputation.

November, 11, 2013 at 09:53 AM

I couldn't disagree more! Okanagan Specialty Fruits is largely privately funded by apple industry members and is led by a grower - Neal Carter. As far as retailers "not wanting" the apple, this is not true as the letters simply said they have no current plans to use them (which of course they wouldn't - they aren't deregulated yet and it would take years after approval to have adequate supply: http://www.arcticapples.com/sites/default/files/okanagan_specialty_fruits_response_to_letters_from_mcdonalds_gerber_-_nov._10_2013.pdf) As for a problem that doesn't exist, around 50% of apples grown are wasted! This is certainly a major issue that nonbrowning apples can help address. Additionally, the pre-sliced market for apples is a massive opportunity to boost apple consumption and nonbrowning apples can offer better taste while reducing treatments/cost.

November, 11, 2013 at 10:36 AM

I have not read the 83 pages you referenced but so far I have not heard anyone detail what happens inside a human when the non browning apple gets inside them. To my mind there is some sort of reason to suspect that it might not break down inside a person in a normal manner... Nope I do not need it nor want it in my orchard. Keep it in Canada and use Canadians as the guinea pigs for testing how people actually react to it over a period of time.

November, 11, 2013 at 11:11 AM

and "brown" apples taste bad??? that is a bunch of bunk. Apple growers DO NOT want this apple. Only those that think it will line their pockets with early profits..but it has the great potential to backfire. Like 50% of these apples won't be "wasted" either? The reason for waste ia a grower problem and a produce manager problem. BIGGER apples..always have to be bigger, but the fact is most people, and especially kids, don't need or want to eat a huge apple, but the stores demand them because they look better. Having grown for farmers markets I hear often how consumers prefer a smaller apple so that the rest doesn't go to waste. As was said by another grower they can keep them in Canada and use their kids as the guinea pigs for these things.

st paul, MN  |  November, 11, 2013 at 11:30 AM

"Privately funded" and "independent testing" does nothing to comfort my feelings about this apple atrocity. When invested parties pay for the tests, they are able to throw out any tests that they don't like, and keep paying other independent facilities until they come up with findings that help them to sell their inferior products. Numbers are easy to manipulate. Like that "50% of apples grown are wasted!" comment. What do you mean by wasted? Do you even know? Most orchards I know of do have apples which naturally fall to the ground, at which time they can't pack them. A GMO apple wouldn't do anything to solve this. Currently farmers can use those fallen apples as compost. That isn't something you can do with an apple that doesn't break down. Several apples get wasted because retailers and distributors refuse to sell any #2 grade apples, even though those are still perfectly edible. So instead of trying to create the perfect apple, why not spend money on educating customers that #2 fruit is not only edible, it is WAY cheaper. So if 50% of an orchards fruit is really getting thrown out, as you would like readers to believe, maybe someone needs to talk to them about managing a better business, and growing something that will sell. Instead of trying to overproduce a crop people don't want. You also misread the statements by Gerber and McDonald's. They didn't say "no current plans", they said they had "NO plans" to use them. I for one hope they stick to their words' and help to make sure these unnatural apples never make their way to the market. This is a whole new kind of "Bad Apple" that will do nothing except for hurt reputable apple growers. A GMO apple a day, will land you at the doctor right away! :)

California  |  November, 11, 2013 at 12:13 PM

With so many options in the store, what parent is going to search out and buy an apple labeled GMO? Apple varieties that consistently deliver a good eating experience with flavor and texture are performing quite well. My humble opinion is that this is a useless addition to the fruit industry that adds little value; and in a free-market situation few produce buyers are going to want to buy these apples anyway.

USA  |  November, 11, 2013 at 02:23 PM

If you want to see how human stomaches looks like after eating GMO products here you can see already how livestock respond. There are plenty of studies made worldwide at not a single one is positive for our health. GMO feed turns pig stomachs to mush! http://www.naturalnews.com/040727_gmo_feed_severe_inflammation_pig_stomachs.html

November, 11, 2013 at 05:49 PM

I totally agree. Why do we need a GMO apple that does not turn brown. How ridiculous. Someone spent money on this?

NY  |  November, 12, 2013 at 06:32 AM

How dare you try to think for a minute the government cares and all of this extensive testing. Look who did the testing! Look who did the testing on the original corn and soy trials. This is enough. We don't need old apples that don't brown. We don't need corn that produces it's own toxins. You should be ashamed to think this has nothing to do with the poor health in this rich country. Enough is enough. The government has definitely made up it's mind. They haven't listened to us in over 25 years! Rigorous review? C'mon.

November, 12, 2013 at 06:51 AM

You are assuming that it will be labeled...

Frankfort, Mi  |  November, 12, 2013 at 07:19 AM

Imperfect apples can be juiced, dried, sauced; used for salads, pies and animal fodder; and composted to replace our biggest U.S. export: TOPSOIL. The biggest problem with GMO's is their ability to 'infect' the non-GMO food supply. It is nearly impossible to find non-GMO corn in the U.S. Soy and wheat are following close behind. That an organic farmer was sued for the gmo seed drift that corrupted his organic crop is a good example of the reversals and mentality behind all the smoke and mirrors. Follow the money behind the studies...

NY  |  November, 12, 2013 at 09:21 AM

Wow...you are still referring to that nonsensical study... Don't you know that 90 percent of all livestock are eating gmo corn and soybeans and are doing just fine?

Guadalajara  |  November, 12, 2013 at 09:32 AM

The environmental and public health issues have taken a back seat in relation to the ownership rights and claims of the need to maintain "competitive industry secrets" related to these patented products and leaving research regarding safety in the hands of the interested parties or their hirelings constitutes irresponsible oversight. Furthermore, the governmental agencies charged with oversight are populated by biotech industry representitives. Therefore: Regardless of the number of pages drafted to justify the release of organisms created via the use of pathogens and/or poorly controlled mechanical means, both of which are incompatible with gametic (sexual) reproduction (shifting the original genome in ways not even examined) and with no long term animal health / consumption tests using the organisms that will be released (most of the conclusions are extrapolated from the results of tests on the original genome plus separate tests on natural versions of the synthetic genes, markers and event triggers that are all introduced - but not tested); I would have to agree that the evaluation process is little more than a simulation, and in any case: BioTech Crops has been beneficial to those manufacturing, distributing and promoting them (including those paid to do so here on the Packer) but haven't delivered on the promises made for either farmers or consumers and in fact, nowhere in the world are consumers in favor of purchasing or consuming them (which is the REAL reason the biotech industry spends whatever it takes to defeat mandatory GMO Labeling Initiatives - to keep the public in the dark). I expect this statement to be attacked by biotech industry shills.

Guadalajara  |  November, 12, 2013 at 09:50 AM

Pete, you really need to become better informed: From the Institute for Science in Society http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Scientists_Declare_No_Consensus_on_GMO_Safety.php Many more Scientists now Say GMOs Not Proven Safe A powerful statement signed by 93 scientists disputing and exposing the false claims of 'consensus' that GMOs are safe was released by the European Network of Scientists for Social Responsibility (ENSSER) on 21 October. The number of signatories has increased to 230 by 30 October, among them, Dr Belinda Martineau, who helped commercialise the world's first GM food, the Flav Savr tomato. She says the debate on how to use this powerful GM technology safely is far from over. ISIS, 4th November 2013

st paul, MN  |  November, 12, 2013 at 11:14 AM

In the company’s own words, “By the time Arctic apples reach your market, they will be one of the most researched and tested foods on the planet.” Why do they need to spend all that time and money researching something that people have been successfully growing and selling for thousands of years? I have read through the Arctic Apple website extensively, and it all has this feeling of trying to convince rather than sell you on something. They created the idea of the "yuck" factor, referring to an apple turning brown. The appearance of a brown apple makes people think it is bad, when in reality the only thing that has changed about that apple is the color. I personally like that an apple shows me when it is bruised. With the Arctic apple, a produce employee could drop every apple on the floor and bruise it, but the customer would never know because the apple doesn't bruise. You are then only selling the perception of freshness. But when people bite into the now damaged and mealy apple they might start to think that apples are gross, thereby hurting the apple industry. The only point Arctic makes about reducing waste is that a kid could eat 1/2 an apple and come back to eat the other 1/2 a day later without having to worry about it turning brown. Why not instead just start selling those 140 count and smaller apples. All this companies research has showed that people apparently want smaller apples, not the 56 and larger sizes that look so pretty on a shelf. 140's are typically cheaper too, so you can give customers amazing deals, making fruit more available to low income families. How much do you think they will need to charge to make their money back on the "most researched and tested foods on the planet."

st paul, MN  |  November, 12, 2013 at 11:38 AM

It is also a bit concerning that the .gov website where you are supposed to be able to leave your opinion is not working. Below is the link you are supposed to be able to post at. http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2012-0025

Schoharie, NY  |  November, 12, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Wow! Give me a fake apple with my fake fish and fake corn. Please think of my grandchildren, stop the madness.

Georgia  |  November, 12, 2013 at 12:35 PM

This is NOT what consumers need. Please don't alter what God made. I'm not a practicing Christian at all, but what we received, in its true form, is almost perfect. (Just as all of us are not perfect, nor is fruit, wheat, cows, etc. we all have learned to deal with that so why rock the boat?). Please don't add anything to anything to make it more pest resistant, spoilage resistant, vitamin rich, etc. leave well enough ALONE!!!!

David Miller    
OHIO  |  November, 13, 2013 at 05:19 AM

This article is rather confusing and I believe the people pushing for the GMO may be too. The title indicates that the apple is a step closer to being approved and yetin the first round of public comments, 1,935 comment were filed, overwhelmingly in opposition?? Gerber and McDonalds are saying they don't plan to use it and from all the fruit growers I have talked to the interest has been zero. Also would you be so helpful as to put the link where I can leave a comment? Seems kind of fishy that for a public comment there would be less than 2000 comments. If we are to feed the growing population by 2050 why not make sure we feed them what they want. Let's put this in perspective; Why does an apple turn brown? Because of the enzymes at work to decompose (digest) the apple. So when we eat an apple that doesn't turn brown how do we expect to get any feeding value out of it if after we are done with it it is still white. ( interesting to think about) We have seen what the GMOs did in the corn world and I know we don't want to go there with fruit.

Andy Nelson    
November, 13, 2013 at 01:49 PM

Even though the comments were negative, the USDA’s opening of a new comment period is a necessary step in its approval process. That doesn't, of course, mean USDA will approve it. Here's a link for commenting: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=APHIS-2012-0025-1938

Chelan County  |  November, 18, 2013 at 05:58 PM

The consumer will appreciate a non browning apple the same way that the Sliced apple dipped in calcium and vitamin C sells like crazy. The sliced apple business will sky rocket with thes new products. Face the fact that GMO product opposition has NO BASIS.

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