WASHINGTON, March 20 2015— The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded today that genetically engineered (GE) apples developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits and GE potatoes developed by JR Simplot Company are as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts.
FDA evaluated Okanagan’s Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties of apples, known as “Arctic Apples,” which are genetically engineered to resist browning associated with cuts and bruises by reducing levels of enzymes that can cause browning.
The agency also evaluated Simplot’s varieties of Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank and Atlantic potatoes, known as “Innate” potatoes, which are genetically engineered to reduce the formation of black spot bruises by lowering the levels of certain enzymes in the potatoes. They are also engineered to produce less acrylamide by lowering the levels of an amino acid called asparagine. Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, and has been found to be carcinogenic in rodents, FDA noted in its announcement.
FDA states that foods derived from GE plants must meet the same legal standards, including safety standards, as foods derived from traditional plant breeding methods. As part of its consultation process, both Okanagan, of British Columbia, Canada, and Simplot, of Boise, Idaho, submitted to the FDA a summary of their safety and nutritional assessments.
“The consultation process includes a review of information provided by a company about the nature of the molecular changes and the nutritional composition of the food compared to traditionally bred varieties,” said Dennis Keefe, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety. “This case-by-case safety evaluation ensures that food safety issues are resolved prior to commercial distribution.”
The Center for Science in the Public Interest's (CSPI) biotechnology director Gregory Jaffe said although there is no reason the Arctic Apples or Innate Potatoes would pose any risk, the FDA’s consultation should not be voluntary. Jaffe wants Congress to pass legislation that requires new biotech crops to undergo “a rigorous and mandatory” approval process before the foods made from them reach the marketplace.
“Such a system would give consumers much greater confidence that all genetically engineered products have been independently reviewed and found to be safe,” he said.
APHIS approved Simplot’s Innate potatoes in November 2014. Bill Whitacre, CEO of J.R. Simplot Co., said he expects opportunities for his company’s recently deregulated genetically modified potato on the fresh market in cut and chilled varieties.
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