FarmPolicy

November 20, 2019

GMO Apples

Categories: Biotech

Video from The Wall Street Journal: Time-Lapse: Conventional Apple vs. GMO Apple, A time-lapse video shows the differences in browning of a regular golden delicious apple and a genetically modified Arctic golden apple left out for 24 hours. Photo: Arctic Apples.

Andrew Pollack reported in Saturday’s New York Times that, “The government on Friday approved the commercial planting of genetically engineered apples that are resistant to turning brown when sliced or bruised.

“The developer, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, says it believes the nonbrowning feature will be popular with both consumers and food service companies because it will make sliced apples more appealing. The feature could also reduce the number of apples discarded because of bruising.

“But many executives in the apple industry say they worry that the biotech apples, while safe to eat, will face opposition from some consumers, possibly tainting the wholesome image of the fruit that reputedly ‘keeps the doctor away.’ They are also concerned that it could hurt exports of apples to countries that do not like genetically modified foods.”

Mr. Pollack explained that, “The Department of Agriculture, which approved the apples for commercial planting, said on Friday that it had considered these issues. However, it said that under the law, approval is based on whether a genetically modified crop poses a threat to other plants. The department determined that the apples posed no such risk.

“The so-called Arctic apples — which will be available in the Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties — are genetically engineered in a way to suppress the production of an enzyme that causes browning when cells in the apple are injured, from slicing, for example.

“But over time the apples will still rot and turn brown. In November, the Agriculture Department approved a genetically engineered potato developed by the J.R. Simplot Company that uses a similar technique to prevent browning.”

Also on Saturday, Tennille Tracy reported in The Wall Street Journal that, “The Agriculture Department, which announced the approval Friday, said the apple was given the green light because it didn’t pose a risk to other plants or agricultural products. The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for ensuring the apple is safe to eat, but its review is voluntary and its approval isn’t required for the company to move forward.”

Ms. Tracy added that, “Earlier this week, Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate proposed bills directing the FDA to require labels for genetically modified foods. Republicans are likely to support competing measures that make labeling voluntary and prevent states from passing their own measures.

“Voters in at least four states, including Oregon and Colorado most recently, rejected ballot measures to require food companies to label genetically modified products sold in their states. Vermont is the only state to pass such a law, and its measure is being challenged in court.

Having secured the USDA’s approval, Okanagan says up to 70,000 of its trees could be planted in 2016, with the resulting fruit available for consumers as early as 2017. But it will take several years for there to be any significant production.”

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