GMO "non-browning" apple in for a long fight
Arctic® Golden slices (bottom) compared to conventional Golden slices. Photo: Okanagan Specialty Fruits
This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture closed the comment period on whether it should approve commercial sale of Arctic Apples – genetically modified apples that "turn off" a gene in the fruit that causes browning. I wrote about the apples last month here. The Seattle News has a good profile of the Canadian apple grower and genetic engineering businessman who wants to bring the Arctic Apple to market.
An agency within the USDA, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), has already recommended the GMO apples be granted non-regulated status, saying they "have the potential to improve fruit processing capabilities for maintain the quality and shelf life of apples.”
So now the first GMO apple to hit the produce aisle is in the hands of the USDA as it weighs hundreds of public comments.
The Center for Food Safety's 76 pages of deep-science comments include the intimation that it will challenge APHIS's determination in favor of the apple under federal environmental law, arguing its assessment was "substantively, procedurally, scientifically, and legally inadequate."
An interesting wrinkle in this story is the greater apple-growing industry has largely opposed approval. According to Capital Press, their concern is public perception affecting sales:
The big unknown, industry leaders say, is how many people would quit buying apples because they’re concerned about genetic engineering. Though no health risks have been associated with it, genetic engineering has become a hot button issue among some consumers who fear there may be undiscovered risks.
This debate is a pretty big moment for genetically modified foods. The apple-a-day is the icon of healthy eating. If people are ok with eating a GMO apple, what's next?
The USDA may issue a ruling in the spring, but legal challenges could delay the Arctic Apple for a lot longer.
Tags: agriculture, apples, Canada, GM crops, GMO, usda, washington