Jan 3, 2014USDA extends Arctic Apples comment period
USDA has extended the public comment period on the deregulation of Arctic Apples, which have been genetically modified to be non-browning. The comment period now expires Jan. 30. For more information or to make a comment, click here.
Since 2011, Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF), based in British Columbia, Canada, has been seeking approval from the U.S. and Canadian governments for its product, Arctic Apples, to be grown commercially without restrictions. The first U.S. public comment period was held in 2012.
If approved, Arctic Apples will be grown, sold and processed like any other cultivar, said Neal Carter, owner of OSF. He said the non-browning apples would be popular with various market segments, including fresh-cut, foodservice and whole fresh apples.
When developing Arctic Apples, OSF scientists determined which genes control the browning process and figured out how to turn those genes off. Using that process, any apple variety can be modified to be non-browning. The genetically modified apples have been in field trials in both countries for a number of years now. OSF initially focused on two varieties, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith, but Fuji and Gala are also in the field, and the company will eventually seek approval for other varieties as well, Carter said.
The U.S. Apple Association is opposed to the deregulation of Arctic Apples. USApple has stated that it does not believe Arctic Apples represent a human health concern, but that consumers are not calling for non-browning apples at this time.
Arctic Apples also are meeting resistance in Canada. In November, the British Columbia-based BC Fruit Growers’ Association (BCFGA) asked the Canadian government to suspend the regulatory process for OSF’s product.
“Our concern is the negative publicity for apples in general caused by the controversy over this GM (genetically modified) apple,” wrote Jeet Dukhia, BCFGA’s president. “There is potential market damage caused to apple markets if this GM apple is approved – indeed, it seems the damage is occurring even while the apple is in the regulatory process and a decision on its approval is still pending. The public thinks of apples as a pure, natural, healthy and nutritional fruit. GM apples are a risk to our market image.”
The Canadian Horticultural Council’s Apple Working Group, a national committee of representatives from each apple-growing province, also is in favor of a moratorium on the introduction of the Arctic Apple.
According to a national survey of Canada done in 2012 by Leger Marketing, 76 percent of consumers agreed that the Canadian government had not provided adequate information about genetically modified foods so that consumers could make an informed decision about them. That lack of understanding is causing confusion and could disrupt the apple market, according to BCFGA.