Still facing market skepticism, Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. is seeking Canadian approval for the genetically engineered “Arctic’ non-browning apple.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is taking comments on a request for unconfined environmental release for commercial planting purposes in Canada.
The CFIA said it received the request for apple events GD743 and GS784, which have been genetically engineered to be non-browning.
In 2010, Okanagan Specialty Fruits submitted a risk assessment petition for non-browning apples to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
That represented the first petition for that the agency had ever received for a genetically engineered apple, and the request is still pending before the agency.
Neal Carter, president of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., Summerland, British Columbia, said the USDA has told the company that the agency has completed scientific review of the petition for the golden delicious and granny smith Arctic apple varieties. He said the agency is expected to publish the petition for release of the genetically engineered apple in the Federal Register soon, which will begin 60-day public comment period. In addition, USDA will work on a plant risk assessment and an environmental assessment that may take several months to complete.
An ultimate determination for the Arctic apple in the U.S. could take place within the year, he said.
In Canada, Carter said there will be public comment on the company’s petition to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency through mid-June.
Carter said the key driver for the variety is fresh-cut application. “It is all about getting rid of the antioxidant dips and making apples have their own natural flavor and getting a better tasting chemical free fresh cut apple out there that is competitively priced,” he said. Carter said there is also interest by operators to use Arctic apples in foodservice.
The Vienna, Va.-based U.S. Apple Association and the Yakima, Wash.-based Northwest Horticultural Council in early 2011 urged the USDA to keep the genetically modified variety out of the U.S. out of concerns for potential marketing harm to the conventional and organic apple industry.
Chris Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, Yakima, Wash., said the industry has not changed its mind about the Arctic apple.
“We would hope that (the Arctic variety) does not enter commercial trade in the U.S.,” he said May 16.
Tom Auvil, research horticulturist with the Washington Tree Fruit Commission, Wenatchee, said both Cananda and the U.S. may rule in favor of the genetically engineered apple.
The most significant potential demand for the non-browning product may come from fresh cut apple processors, but Auvil said there are market risks for a genetically engineered apple variety targeted to kids.
“I don’t see it jumping off the ground very far,” he said. “Processing prices are good right now, but not at a level for planting a new orchard,” he said.