Jul 16, 2012
Biotech apples seek approval

The U.S. government is now seeking public input on Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny apples, two non-browning varieties that have been produced through biotechnology by Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF), based in British Columbia, Canada.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has opened its review for U.S. public comment, which allows citizens to submit their input on Arctic Apples.

OSF’s Arctic Apples are among the first biotechnology plants/plant foods to undergo a recently enhanced U.S. agency review process that includes two opportunities for public input. APHIS announced the opening of the first 60-day public comment period regarding the petition for Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden apples and eleven other biotechnology products in the July 13 edition of the Federal Register. This first comment period will close Sept. 11.

The second comment period is expected to open about six months following the closure of the first comment period. After reviewing comments, if no further substantive issues have been raised, APHIS’ decision is published as final, thereby determining non-regulated status, according to OSF.

Arctic Apples use gene silencing to suppress the apple’s expression of polyphenol oxidase, the enzyme involved in browning when the fruit is bruised, bitten or cut. This virtually eliminates PPO production, so in turn the fruit doesn’t brown. Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny are just the company’s first non-browning varieties; any apple variety can be transformed this way. Test orchards were planted in 2003 and 2005 in Washington state and New York state, according to OSF.

OSF submitted its petition for non-regulated status to APHIS in May 2010; APHIS notified the company its petition was complete last February.

The U.S. Apple Association is opposed to OSF’s efforts to deregulate Arctic Apples.

“Apples that are naturally very low browning are already in the marketplace,” according to a statement released by USApple. “In addition, lightly coating sliced or cut apples with Vitamin C-fortified apple juice delays browning prior to serving.

“USApple’s position is not based on any question about human health or safety.”

OSF is currently seeking U.S. partners to commercialize Arctic Apples.

To make a comment, visit the Federal eRulemaking Portal here; or mail it to Docket No. APHIS–2012–0025, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A–03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737–1238.

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