It is one of the longer "chats" I have done, but it is worth the read, I think.
I had the chance to chat Neal Carter, president of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., Summerland, British Columbia.
Okanagan Specialty Fruits is seeking U.S. Department of Agriculture approval for domestic growing and marketing of Arctic, a genetically modified apple variety the company said does not brown when the apple is sliced.
11:11 a.m. Karst: Where are you now in the process of bringing the genetically engineered apple to the market?
11:12 a.m. Carter: We've got a lot to work to do. The Arctic apple - several events, or varieties of Arctic golden and Arctic granny are currently with USDA APHIS for deregulation. From there some small plantings will get started and it will get rolled out to the commercial arena three, four, five years from now. We had quite a bit of media attention this past month starting in early December but nothing is happening in the short term, it is all pretty long term.
11:13 a.m. Karst: Where did genetic modification occur with the Arctic apple?
11:51 a.m. Carter: Polyphenol Oxidase is from apples, so what we have done is turned off an apple gene which produces the protein called Polypheunol Oxidase. We haven’t introduced a gene from another plant species or from bacterium or anything else. This isn’t like a BT corn for example, where they isolated the Cry1 protein out of the BT bacteria. We basically turned off an apple gene. If people think we are going to see (new) proteins being produced in our apple. We’re not because we’re not producing any new proteins, we just turned one off. The technology comes from the Australian research organization called CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization). They have a series of patents covering the Polyphenol Oxidase gene. They identified it originally in a grape variety and from there they isolated that gene sequence in about 24 different plant species, including apples. They made the proof of concept work in potatoes and we then the licensed the technology for tree fruits and we have the exclusive worldwide rights to the technology for tree fruit.
We started in November 1996. We did three years of work to identify the behavior of PPO in apples. So we designed a means a way to interrupt protein synthesis.
We started planting the first trees in field trials in 2002 and we have had consistent results. We see no instabilities or variations from year to year with the trees. They look like apple trees, they grow like apple trees and they are consistent from year to year.