The American Medical Association, World Health Organization, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN are just a few reputable organizations who speak to the safety and desirability of approved biotech crops. However, one of the biggest challenges is simply getting consumers accurate information. The coverage of Arctic apples provides an example of this and there a few myths/concerns that there are simple explanations for:
Myth #1: Arctic apples are unsafe/untested
Arctic apples have been studied in field trials in Washington and New York State for over ten years and are one of the most researched and tested foods on the planet. The data demonstrates Arctic apples are just like any other apples until they are cut, bitten, or bruised and don’t brown. They contain no new proteins and are just as safe and healthful as other apples.
Myth #2: Since Arctic apples don’t brown, consumers can’t tell if they are old/damaged
Far from hiding when fruit is old or damaged, Arctic apples actually make it easier to tell when an apple has gone “bad”. Superficial damage that does not affect the quality of the fruit, such as minor finger bruising, won’t show. Arctic fruit looks fresh unless there is significant damage and then the apple probably shouldn’t be eaten. Enzymatic browning is quite different from the rotting that comes with decay, so Arctic fruit will decompose just the same as other apples.
Myth #3: Arctic apple will cross-pollinate with other orchards
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.