The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approval of two genetically modified, non-browning B.C. apples has left a bitter taste for the BC Fruit Growers Association.
“We regret that the U.S. is approving the Arctic Granny Smith and Arctic Golden Delicious,” states Fred Steele, association president. “The apple is considered a pure, unadulterated product, similar to milk… Our members would like the apple market to remain free of GM apples.”
Steele makes a suggestion for shoppers who do not wish to consume a genetically modified apple.
“If consumers want to be perfectly assured that they are not eating a GMO apple, then avoid purchase of U.S. Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples. We will advise the public when the product is approved in Canada, and seek to isolate any damage that the apple will cause in the marketplace by advising consumers how to continue purchasing apples while avoiding the Arctic apple, if they so desire.”
The non-browning Arctic apple was created by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, an agriculture biotechnology company based in Summerland.
In an email interview last year with Neal Carter, the founder and president of Okanagan Specialty Fruits, he stated while there are “low-browning” varieties of apples in existence, only Arctic apples are non-browning.
“Another advantage of having a biotech solution for browning is that we can make any variety non-browning, including ones that are already popular. So, rather than having to spend years (possibly decades) trying to develop a single new, non-browning variety with no guarantee of success, we have Arctic Granny, Arctic Golden and many other favourites on the way.”
Carter said the goal in creating the non-browning apple was to boost apple consumption while improving the apple industry’s bottom line.
“Non-browning apples can open up this (the food service industry) market by lowering production and processing costs of cut and dried fruit, offering consumers greater convenience, and reducing the number of apples that are wasted throughout the supply chain.”
The fruit growers association emphasizes that the Arctic apple is not approved in Canada; it would take at least four years before any significant volume of Arctic apples were available in the marketplace and, even then, the volume would be limited.
Salmon Arm grower James Hanna said he won’t be planting any GMO apples, but he is not as alarmed at the U.S. approval of the apple as he might be.
“What they’ve done with it is shut off the enzyme that causes the apple to go brown.
“It’s not that they’ve added anything to it, they’ve more or less taken out the gene that produces the enzyme… which might be a little more tenable than adding genetic material from another organism. That, I think, would be totally untenable.”
He sees a problem for people who don’t want to eat GM apples.
“You go to the store and there will be a non-browning Golden Delicious. It will look like every other Golden – that gets to be a bit of a problem. Especially when retailers are stocking Washington-grown apples as B.C. apples. When you look at the tags on apples, quite often they will be Washington State apples. This apple – a non browning Granny – how do you know? That could be a bit of a problem.”
Hanna concludes: “We won’t be growing them here and, from the sound of things, it doesn’t sound like the B.C. fruit industry is backing this one very much either.”