Carter: As a policy, we aren’t going to comment on others’ positions.
I will say this: I’m an apple grower myself, so I know our industry needs all the help we can get to increase apple consumption. Fresh apple consumption has been declining in recent years, at the same time that consumption of other fruits and vegetables have been increasing overall. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a really innovative product that got consumers’ attention and boosted growers’ bottom lines.
A truly non-browning apple has great market potential, for slices and other fresh cut, juice processing and on the fresh market alike. There hasn’t been much dialogue in our industry about the cost of browning, but when you add it up across the supply chain, it’s really quite dramatic, from the field, the packinghouse and the processing plant to the store display shelf, restaurant and home. We know we face challenges, and we’re working hard to be thoughtful and considerate about how we go about our business -- but we’ve also heard positive things from consumers who participated in our focus groups and had a chance to learn more about Arctic Apples and see them for themselves.
Beyond Arctic Apples, biotechnology holds tremendous promise in helping to solve industry challenges, including pest threats. Our message: Give biotechnology, and Arctic Apples a chance. Let the supply chain and marketplace decide for themselves, on the merits of the product.
Karst: Do you feel those statements by the U.S. Apple Association and Northwest Horticultural Council will “carry any weight” with the USDA?
Carter: USDA APHIS evaluates and prepares assessments of plant pest risk and environmental impact.. There will be a 60 day public comment period and this is when APHIS is expecting letters from industry and consumers Letters to APHIS that have scientific merit will be given due diligence. It would be our understanding that letters such as that by the NW Hort Council was premature.
We’re confident that we can provide evidence that Arctic Apples are safe and are equivalent or better than regular apples. This science is relatively straightforward. Recognizing that genetic engineering is a complex technology this is about as simple as it gets. These plants will perform identically to anything else in your orchard – the difference is in the non-browning flesh, and the market doors it can open.
Karst: How long do you think it will be before the USDA will act on your request?