WASHINGTON, July 25, 2012 -Wouldn’t it be nice to slice a juicy apple and not worry about the browning that could occur shortly afterwards? Most Americans might agree, but he apple industry is divided over whether or not biotechnology should be used to address this issue.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is now accepting comments on Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF) Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny apples, two non-browning varieties produced through biotechnology. The OSF’s Arctic Apples are among the first biotechnology organisms to undergo the recently enhanced APHIS review process that now includes two opportunities for public comment. The first comment period will close on September 11, 2012.
“We are delighted to reach this important milestone in the U.S., and to be one of the first to participate in the expanded APHIS review processes,” said OSF founder and President Neal Carter.
Arctic Apples use gene silencing to suppress the apple’s expression of polyphenol oxidase (PPO), the enzyme involved in browning when the fruit is bruised, bitten or cut. This virtually eliminated PPO production, so in turn the fruit does not brown. Currently only two Arctic Apples varieties are under consideration, but OSF said any apple variety can be improved this way.
OSF is currently seeking deregulated status for Arctic Apples, the first genetically engineered apples, in both Canada and the United States, with a decision expected in early 2013.
“We’re confident these public comment opportunities will reassure consumers and producers alike that Arctic Apples address browning in an innocuous way, so that we can move on to the work of getting more people eating more apples,” Carter said.
Noting the challenges of launching a product on the market, Carter said, “It is as good a time as any. We feel that the product has been adequately tested and we have enough data in place to support our claims that it is safe and it does not exhibit any environmental risk.”
“One reason we are commercializing Arctic Apples is that we want to demonstrate for the consumer and the industry that biotechnology can be used successfully in tree fruits to introduce new products that the consumer will enjoy,” Carter added.
In contrast, the U.S. Apple Association does not support the approval of Arctic Apples and claims the product offers no substantial consumer benefits.
“There are already apples available either as whole fresh apples that are extremely low-browning or fresh sliced apples that come in packages that are non-browning,” said U.S. Apple President and CEO Nancy Foster. “In terms of consumer benefits, we are scratching our heads. We just don’t see it.
“As future genetically modified apple products are proposed, U.S. Apple will evaluate each of them on a case-by-case basis because we strongly support advancements from research and technology,” Foster said. “But, our stance on Arctic Apples remains unchanged.”
However, Carter said he “looks forward to the opportunity to demonstrate that there is no market risk associated with this product.”
An apple and cherry grower, Carter said “the marketplace is ready for Arctic Apples, especially because apple consumption has been declining and there has been a lot of competition from other snack foods.”
“When there’s no ‘yuck’ factor, more apples get eaten, fewer get thrown away, and more of a family’s hard-earned money stays in their pockets,” said Carter. “Increasing apple consumption is a goal everyone can support.”
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