With only 37% of the public believing that genetically-modified foods are 'safe', The Arctic apple - which resists browning when cut open or sliced - faces an uphill battle for 'success'. But as WSJ reports, the non-browing trait makes it particularly attractive for restaurants, grocery stores, airlines and other companies that offer pre-sliced fruit, and since The Agriculture Department on Friday approved it as the first genetically modified apple for sale in the U.S., the debate over the safety (and labelling) of modified foods reignites. While "getting the consumer to buy in to the product has to be the priority," notes Okanagan, environmentalists warn "there is no place in the U.S. or global market for genetically engineered apples."
24 Hours in the life of a GMO Apple...
The Agriculture Department on Friday approved the first genetically modified apple for sale in the U.S., reigniting debate over the safety of modified foods and whether the products should carry mandatory labels.
The difference between Arctic Granny slices, top, and conventional Granny slices on the bottom is seen here.
Okanagan Specialty Fruits, which makes the Arctic apples, said in a statement that it was excited by the USDA approval and it is:
"working hard to get as many trees in the ground as possible so that you’ll be able to purchase Arctic apples in stores within the next few years."
"The supply-chain can feel confident knowing that Arctic apples are likely the most tested apples in existence," the company said.
"Rigorously reviewed by multiple regulatory bodies, all evaluations reach the same conclusion -- Arctic apples present no unique risks and are just as safe and healthful as any other apple."
“We really know that getting the consumer to buy in to the product and the technology has to be the priority,” he said.
The Arctic apple’s non-browning trait works by shutting off an enzyme that initiates the browning process. Mr. Carter said he hopes the Arctic apple can expand the market for apples in the same way baby carrots generated rapid growth in the carrot industry. The new apple, which resists bruising, could also cut waste for farmers and packers, according to Okanagan.
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.
The FDA is still reviewing the apple, an agency spokeswoman said.
While genetically modified crops have been grown in the U.S. since the 1990s, the Arctic apple is one of only a few genetically modified foods that appeal directly to consumers. In November, the Agriculture Department approved a modified potato.
Currently, the most commonly modified crops, such as corn and soybeans, are modified for the benefit of farmers by withstanding herbicides and pesticides.
Apple farmers are worried, however, that the Arctic apple will scare off consumers who can’t distinguish between modified and conventionally grown varieties. Several of them urged the Agriculture Department to reject the petition for approval.
“I’m very disappointed in the USDA,” said Jim Baird, owner of a 250-acre apple farm in Washington state. “They’re approving this in light of such overwhelming concern and disapproval over [genetically modified] products.”
Consumer and environmental groups said the apple could present unknown risks to human health.
“There is no place in the U.S. or global market for genetically engineered apples,” said Lisa Archer, a director at the environmental group Friends of the Earth. “Farmers don’t want to grow it, food companies don’t want to sell it and consumers don’t want to eat it.”
In the time it will take for farmers to grow the Arctic apples, “consumers have time to get informed and decide whether they want to purchase them,” said Wendy Brannen, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Apple Association.
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A recent Pew Research Center survey showed that while 88% of scientists think genetically modified food is safe to eat, only 37% of the general public believe so.