08/21/2012 07:40:00 AMTom Karst
Tom, thanks for this statement. If the fresh produce industry is ever to benefit from a precedent for biotechnology, the Arctic Apple is about the least controversial biotech product you can imagine. It is from a small, mostly grower owned entity with no "big bad company" ties. It is a consumer-oriented trait. It will be voluntarily "labeled" as what it is for consumers and that is practical because it is in an identity preserved segment. It involves no "foreign genes," and is actually just about some genes being turned off, which is actually the norm for most genes in most cells of most organisms. It does not get much better than that
The USDA should indeed avoid falling prey to “media hysteria“ from EITHER side of this debate. Let’s not further charge the issue by stereotyping non-GMO advocates as superstitious, science-hating Luddites. In a perfect world, long-term studies would find GM foods to be safe, with those foods then exercising their promise to eradicate world hunger - or feed those who eschew slightly brown apples. BUT before that happens, shouldn't the Arctic apple and other GM foods undergo more extensive long-term study? We have seen health effects that take a long time to become apparent, and one subtle dietary effect can build over years to become a problem (e.g. diabetes, BSE). Multiply that by the population of GM food eaters in North America and we could see a major health issue. Maybe it's unlikely, maybe it's not. You write, "It seems science may be on the side of the Arctic apple," but regardless of how many sound preliminary studies have been done on their dietary effects, "Science" hasn't had enough time to assess the Arctic apple’s effects on people over the long-term. Until we understand how their modifications affect us, the Arctic apple and other GM foods may be putting eaters at risk. Or may not. But when we see companies dumping dollars into thwarting initiatives such as Proposition 37, it certainly causes the SpideySense™ to tingle. Our second issue with the Arctic apple is one of public sentiment. Negative opinion of GM fruit COULD end up doing more harm than good for growers if GM apples are allowed. Allowing the Arctic apple seems a rather large risk that stands to benefit only a few (the patent owners and vendors of cut apples), especially for the purpose of introducing a trait as insignificant as non-browning.