Neal Carter to Karst: 'Biotechnology holds tremendous promise'

05/12/2011 09:46:29 AM
Tom Karst

Some weeks ago I had asked Neal Carter, president of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., for his response to the apple industry's statements about his company's genetically engineered Arctic non-browning apple currently under review by the USDA. We weren't able to talk in person, but he emailed me some responses to my questions, which I am somewhat tardy in posting here.

First of all, for context, is March coverage from The Packer's Coral Beach about the U.S. Apple and Northwest Horticultural Council positions:

Apple group opposes Canada's genetically engineered apples

By Coral Beach

Joining the Northwest Horticulture Council in opposing genetically engineered, non-browning apples from Canada, the board of the U.S. Apple Association voted unanimously at its March 12 meeting to ask the USDA to not allow the fruit into the U.S.

Nancy Foster, president of the association based in Vienna, Va., said the vote to oppose an application for non-regulated status from British Columbia’s Okanagan Specialty Fruits came after review of presentations from Okanagan’s president Neal Carter. Okanagan is seeking approval of its non-browning apples.

Neither the U.S. Apple Association nor the Northwest Horticulture Council contends that Okanagan’s apples pose a threat to human health. Rather, the U.S. organizations’ members are concerned that allowing non-regulated status for the non-browning apples could harm marketing efforts and sales for the U.S. apple industry.

Chris Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticulture Council in Yakima, Wash., sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Feb. 28 expressing the council’s opposition to the Okanagan application. The council explains its stance in the March edition of its newsletter on its website at www.nwhort.org/newsletter.html.

“This policy decision was made by our trustees after a careful balance, taking into account potential customer concerns, of benefits and risks to the existing commercial apple industry of the Pacific Northwest,” the newsletter states. “In the end, the projected benefits of the non-browning apples did not outweigh the marketing harm likely to occur to apple growers and marketers, whether traditional or organic.”

TK: There, then, is the context. Below are my questions and Carter's answers from April.

Karst: What was your reaction to the statements of the Northwest Horticultural Council and U.S. Apple Association about your Arctic apple?


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