Karst: Are you aware of any other people who are working on genetically engineered apples? Are you the only company that has been involved in this research?
Carter: There are other people doing other things. I was at a conference in New Zealand in March, and it was amazing to see all the things people are working on. These are largely government funded research institutions or universities. People who do the work and publish a paper type of thing. There is working being done for years at UC Davis, at Cornell and in New Zealand, Germany, France and Japan.
Karst: What do you think the market will be like for genetically engineered fruit like apples in 20 years? Will it be established by that point?
Carter: I’ve always hoped that would be the case, and I think it will be. Biotechnology is just another tool in the breeder’s toolbox. There is always going to be a place for conventional breeding and I think that over time there will be new varieties with novel traits that are biotech derived. The areas where I see this happening is where conventional breeders have difficulty, with thinks like fire blight resistance, scab resistance and changing the nutritional profile of the apple. To us, the Arctic apple is the first step in this process. We wanted to go first with a product where we knew the technology was simple and innocuous. We are just turning off one enzyme in an apple. It is still all apple; when you eat it, it is exactly the apple that you have enjoyed and loved, except it doesn’t go brown. We would like to go further than that down the road, perhaps an “Arctic plus,” with additional traits of disease resistance or pest resistance, these sorts of things. But we really believe that it has to be something in it for the consumer; otherwise the consumer is not going to support the product. That could mean a (biotech variety) would result in less chemical spraying, that it would be better for the environment, less expensive, a better antioxidant profile or making it so that it is a healthier more nutritious snack food.