Company looking to market genetically modified apples runs into opposition

Jul 16, 2012 by Bob Yirka report

(Phys.org) -- Canadian company Okanagan Specialty Fruits has developed two varieties of genetically modified (GM) apples that don’t turn brown when cut, and wants to market them.

To do so, they have voluntarily submitted them to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Canadian Food Safety Inspection Agency (CFSIA). The process for both is to first undergo a 60 day public comment period then secondly to have the product tested for health and safety. The CFSIA has already completed the comment period and will begin the safety inspection phase shortly. Meanwhile, opposition to the apples has grown. In a survey taken in Canada, sixty nine percent of 1,501 people polled said they would not support the approval of GM apples in their country. Across the border, the US Association has announced its opposition to the sale of such apples, suggesting it would taint the image of apples grown in the United States.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits maintains that the apples are not only safe, but would help improve sales of apples as they note that consumption of fresh apples in the US has fallen from an average of twenty pounds a year to just sixteen. They note that many people shy away from taking on a whole apple, but go for slices, but only those that haven’t turned brown. They say also that because grocery chains refuse apples that have browned due to bruising, non-browning apples would mean more money for growers.

The process of modifying the apples, first developed in Australia by a team working with potatoes, involves placing an extra copy of a gene already in the apple that activates a self-defense mechanism that causes the gene responsible for the production of polyphenol oxidase, which is responsible for browning, to shut down. Okanagan Specialty Fruits has thus far developed just two varieties, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith which it plans to market under the name The Arctic Apple once they receive approval. Unfortunately for them, the Northwest Horticultural Council, which represents the tree industry in Washington State, home to nearly sixty percent of the apples grown in the US, is also opposed to the idea. They say they don’t believe the apples are dangerous but believe it would be in the best interest of the apple industry to maintain the apple’s image as a natural healthy food.

If approved the apples would represent the first genetically modified food sold directly to consumers in the United States. Other food has been sold to the public for almost twenty years, but they have all appeared as processed ingredients.

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More information: www.arcticapples.com

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User comments : 14

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Doug_Huffman
3.2 / 5 (9) Jul 16, 2012
Dear Marketeers, I have no issue with GMO, but please GM for characteristics the consumer market desires, and not for the likes of flavorless, tough tomatoes and never ripe peaches. Watch the burgeoning legacy-fruit market as a measure of disapproval of your products. I give a snit about non-browning apples.
vlaaing peerd
4 / 5 (5) Jul 16, 2012
- How would I be able to distinguish between GM apples and normal apples, once they hit the market?

- how can the USDA decide on the safety of this product when at the same time it is their core business to stimulate the growth of the American agricultural market? Seems like a major conflict of interest.

Personally I'm in favour of apples that become brown, sorta kinda bitta tells me when they're ROTTEN or not.
M_N
3 / 5 (8) Jul 16, 2012
There are growers in the Adelaide Hills (South Australia) who procude apples that don't brown, and are not GM (they hybridised the old-fashioned way apparently).

Apparently the trick is getting the vitamin C to evenly distribute throughout the flesh, rather than concentrate near the skin as it does with most apples. It's the vitamin C that prevents the browning of cut apples.
DickWilhelm
3 / 5 (10) Jul 16, 2012
I've never understood the amount of fear associated with GMO foods. This modification could easily have happened in nature, or through selective breeding, and nobody would care.
casualjoe
3.5 / 5 (8) Jul 16, 2012
Exactly, that extra gene will get digested in your gut just like everything else.
JGHunter
3.3 / 5 (7) Jul 16, 2012
Surely there is a good reason why apples oxidise?

Not only is it completely superficial, but it's very dishonest to customers.

Instead of creating unnecessary genetic changes (I am pro GM when there's a good reason) why not try and change people's attitude towards the natural decomposition to fruit?

If people were offered opportunities to learn to homebrew (thus selling homebrew kits more, if not at all before) then they would snap up the apples with a bit of a brown mark that are not bad, but that nobody wants in their fruit bowl - partly because they're just going into a fermenting bin anyway. You could put booklets, for example, in the fruit and veg section and in the home shop section. More homebrewers = proportionately more people likely to take it seriously = more people learning and understanding science.
El_Nose
4.4 / 5 (7) Jul 16, 2012
How about the fact that you cannot control fertilization. A farmer 20 miles away grows GM Apples and bees cross pollinate the trees. The farmer twenty miles away uses some of his apple seed to expand into 20 more acres. tries to sell his apples, but they test positive for a tracking gene -- he now has to pay royalties for seed he never bought.

Mosanto GM soybeans always wins this case and the farmers always lose.
SatanLover
3 / 5 (7) Jul 16, 2012
monsanto is an evil anti-agricultural company that increases the poisons in the food that can cause serious illnesses to us.
The organisms they produce also destroy the soil ecology because they take up too much nutrition at once and probably also because of the poisons these plants produce. They claim it to be in "safe" levels but the levels are dozens of times higher than naturally occurring. IT can cause paralyzing in humans, diabetes and much more.
chardo137
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 16, 2012
No apple trees are grown from seeds. They are the result of cloning from 2 separate lines; one for the tree and one for the root, which are then grafted to produce the tree that the farmer grows. I am much more concerned with the practice of selecting varieties for color over flavor. This is driven by marketers who consistently convince farmers that consumers would rather have a good looking apple than one which tastes good, even though point of purchase surveys have shown the opposite. Genetic Modification may be the single greatest tool that we have ever had to improve the quality of our food supply, and at the same time protect the environment, and those who are opposed really need to get some more science education.
tpb
5 / 5 (5) Jul 16, 2012
I'm sick and tired of flavorless tomatoes(no sugar), flowers without scent, green bananas, and apples that taste terrible.
When I was younger Red Delicious apples were actually delicious, now they're almost inedible.
SatanLover
1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 16, 2012
I'm sick and tired of flavorless tomatoes(no sugar), flowers without scent, green bananas, and apples that taste terrible.
When I was younger Red Delicious apples were actually delicious, now they're almost inedible.

Too be honest though, humans produce their own sugars and dont need it from food.
chardo137
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 17, 2012
[q
When I was younger Red Delicious apples were actually delicious, now they're almost inedible.

Those were what were called Standard Delicious. Red Delicious have almost no flavor and should never have been grown. The precursor chemicals that eventually make many of the flavors in apples are also what makes the red color in the skin. Would you choose to have a better tasting apple or a redder apple?
extinct
2 / 5 (4) Jul 22, 2012
if Okanagan cared about people's health, they'd make an apple that had twice the nutritional value of a regular apple. Problem is, they can't, because getting the results you want from gene substitution is so unimaginably difficult that it's practically impossible with today's technology. ONE gene substitution leads to THOUSANDS of changes in an apple or any organism. But they only advertise the changes they feel like, and keep you in the dark about the vast majority of them (the toxic ones). The non-browning GM apple was created accidentally as the result of trial & error, not by scientific skill. Since it leads to quick bucks for a greedy short-sighted company willing to pollute the apple germ line, they went with it. Shame on Okanagan, Monsanto, and all companies like them. Label GMO's immediately and prosecute these companies for criminal negligence.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (5) Aug 11, 2012
When I was younger Red Delicious apples were actually delicious, now they're almost inedible.
Perhaps your sense of taste has deteriorated? The approach of senility is marked by a decrease in the ability to taste citrus or tartness. For instance.