The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is poised to approve a genetically engineered apple, called the Arctic Apple®. The public comment period runs through Monday, December 9.
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Okanagan Specialty Fruits has developed a GMO Golden and Granny Smith apple that is designed not to brown when sliced and exposed to the air. Browning reflects an apple’s freshness – something all consumers are interested in.
The actual genetic engineering process includes insertion of nptII, neomycin phosphotransferase type II gene from E. coli Tn5. This gene allows the transformed apple tissue to grow on a medium containing the antibiotic kanamycin but confers no benefit to the apple plant.
Every cell of every GE apple tree, including the fruit and the tree roots, will show resistance to kanamycin. Kanamycin is a commonly used antibiotic in human medicine, used to treat a wide variety of infections.
- Eating an Arctic Apple could transfer the gene for kanamycin resistance into your digestive system. A similar transfer has been demonstrated with GE soy. There is a real possibility that bacteria in the human digestive systems could develop kanamycin resistance. Antibiotic resistance is a major concern among medical professionals.
- Furthermore, the GE apple’s DNA can also spread to bacteria on the plant and in the soil. Orchardists might very well find that controlling diseases of special concern like fireblight in orchards may become much more difficult. And in the soil environment, the GE DNA can persist for at least a year, where it can be taken up by natural soil bacteria and then incorporated into their genetic structure.
There is no proof that Arctic Apples are harmless, but there is certainly reason to suspect that they may be harmful to humans, wildlife, and the soil environment. Urge the USDA to reject approval of the Arctic Apple. The unknown risks far outweigh the cosmetic value of an apple that doesn’t brown when sliced.
For additional information, click on the links to read the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Environmental Assessment (EA) and Plant Pest Risk Assessment (PPRA) for the GE Arctic apples.