For the past 10 years Okanagan Specialty Fruits, a small company out of British Columbia, Canada has been developing what will most likely be the first genetically engineered apple to hit the market. The purpose of the genetic alteration is to prevent the apple from turning brown or bruising. The primary objective of the new trait; however, focuses mainly on industry supply chain costs rather than the consumer, as fewer apples will be rejected by grocery stores due to minor bruising. Company president, Neal Carter nevertheless insists that the goal of the company is to get people to eat more apples. While this may also be true, the public strongly opposes the new GMO.
Okanagan conducted their own survey asking Americans whether they would be likely to purchase Arctic apples. According to the survey 60 percent of American apple eaters would be extremely likely to purchase the apples. Another survey was taken a year later by the British Columbia Fruit Growers’ Association. This time, genetic engineering was emphasized in the survey. The overwhelming result was that 70 percent of Canadians opposed the apple. Undoubtedly Okanagan downplayed the GE aspect, while emphasizing the apple’s advantages. It’s safe to say most people wouldn’t prefer a GM apple over a normal one. It’s also safe to assume that if everyone understood the potential health consequences of GM foods, nobody would ever give their approval to any GM food.
Undermining the healthy image of apples
Apples, one of natures most popular products, have always been been associated with good health. As the old saying goes; “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” The new Arctic apple; however, may cause more doctor visits than it prevents. With current laws, there is no mandatory labeling of GMOs, so people who once ate apples may now avoid the fruit altogether, just to be sure they are steering clear of any GE apples.
GE technology creates unintended consequences
Okanagan has successfully manipulated the gene that produces polyphenol oxidase (PPO), the enzyme that reacts to oxygen, which leads to the browning effect. Silencing the PPO gene in tomatoes has shown to negatively impact the plant’s ability to withstand diseases and insects, implying that the gene may play an important role as a defense mechanism. It is common for genetic alterations to have unintended consequences, as genetic engineering changes cells in ways that are unknown to us. The company maintains that the manipulation is safe and that fears are overblown. Isn’t that what they said about GE corn?
Who’s asking for GM apples, again?
Okanagan is currently awaiting approval for the Arctic apple in Canada, where organic growers worry about the anti-browning gene being spread to their trees. The U.S. Apple Association “does not support the approval of this product” and states “Consumers like their apples and are not calling for these new ‘nonbrowning’ cultivars.” Regardless, the U.S. government could green light the GM apple very soon. If it’s successful on the market, there’s no doubt that all the big name growers will want in. Golden Delicious and Granny Smith varieties of the Arctic apples have already been developed and Gala and Fuji are in the works. As if this news wasn’t bad enough, Okanagan also plans to use their technology to create other GM fruits, including cherries, peaches and pears.
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About the author:
John Mckiernan is a health and fitness writer. He is the owner of Supplement Helper where he writes supplement reviews and more. He also manages CNA Info, a small blog aimed at answering questions for anyone interested in CNA work.