Neal Carter: U.S. response to Arctic apples provides insights - The Packer

Neal Carter: U.S. response to Arctic apples provides insights

10/23/2012 07:13:00 AM
Neal Carter

This concern is addressed at length on the Arctic apple website. In summary, a) apple trees are not “weedy” so don’t spread on their own, b) bees stay very close to the hive when food is present, c) stewardship standards will further reduce this already low risk and d) in the unlikely scenario cross-pollination were to occur, only some of the resulting plant’s seeds would contain any Arctic material.

Myth #4: Arctic apples won’t be labeled

Fresh market Arctic apples will be clearly labeled as “Arctic” fruit and processed foods containing more than 5% Arctic apples will be identified as well. This is completely voluntary as OSF believes the transparency and choice it offers consumers is of great value.

While the first USDA public comment period is now over, a second one, this time for 30 days, will turn the spotlight on OSF again in the near future. From there, approval is expected in early 2013, at which time Arctic apples can be produced commercially.

In the meantime, Okanagan Specialty Fruits wishes to extend their appreciation to everyone who took the time to learn about Arctic apples and submitted thoughtful comments to the USDA. OSF has always emphasized the importance of transparency and open communication, whether through website, blog, social media, or even by responding to direct questions.

Whatever your personal thoughts on agriculture biotechnology, the more the debate is based on transparency and communication rather than emotion and fear, the better off all involved will be.

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Steve Savage    
Encinitas, California  |  October, 24, 2012 at 01:35 AM

Neal, I visited some Washington apple orchards last week with an old friend and associate who now manages them. I brought home some 18-20oz Fujis that are not that unusual for the 2012 crop. As we enjoyed eating them I often thought how much I would have appreciated having a non-browning version so we would have time to eat them. Everyone with whom I've had the chance to fully explain this technology has said how much they would appreciate it and that once they understood it, how non- scary it seems. I just wish we lived in a rational world where people could learn about these apples for what they are. At one level I understand how the broader apple industry is wary of a "brand issue." On another level I don't believe that it is in their best interest to cave into anti-science because it could come back to haunt them on many other issues. I for one hope that the Arctic apple gets to the market - clearly and even proudly labeled as such. This is a true consumer trait without any "big company" baggage.

Las Vegas, NV  |  January, 30, 2013 at 12:02 AM

Steve, your response has potential, but it lacks the very information that people are concerned about- environmental and health risks. Now, the Arctic Apple will surely have no new genes, which is a bit of a relief, but we should not ignore the potential consequences. Once this apple is out, there's no turning back. The seeds will be out and cannot be recalled. This is why studies for potential health risks need to be conducted in addition to environmental risk assessments. If you have read up on genetic engineering, you would know that changing genes around can give food the potential for the food to create or amplify its toxicity and allergenic level. If you ask me, we should not find out about these risks the hard way. These foods should be properly tested as safe for consumption before release to the public, as it is anticipated that many consumers will want to try out Arctic Apples. What I fail to understand is if these are risks worth taking. Do we really NEED a non-browning apple? The very notion of genetically altering foods offends many because taking the risks vs. benefits ratio into consideration- it's just not worth the risk. Think about what and how Arctic Apples will affect the world in general: Farmers with seed contamination, potential health risks, unable to recall the seeds in the event of environmental contamination, social and cultural values, the economy, and many more. It's just not so black and white.

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