Tell USDA to Reject the GE Apple!
25 Nov, 2013
After decades of promises from the biotech industry that genetically engineered (GE) food would feed the world, cure the sick, reduce agricultural dependence on toxic chemicals, and save countless crops from imminent collapse, industry is poised to finally release a product they think will solve a problem humans have struggled with for centuries… an apple that doesn’t brown when you slice it… Seriously; we couldn’t make this stuff up.
A public comment period on the GE apple is open through December 9th.
GE apples are being touted as the best thing since…well, since sliced apples. In our homes, we just add a little lemon juice. Gosh! We have been living in the Stone Age!
While these GE apples are a waste of time and money, we don’t want to downplay the real concerns about them. Pre-sliced apples are actually a frequently recalled food product. Once the whole fruit is sliced, it has an increased risk of exposure to pathogens. Since browning is a sign that apples are no longer fresh, “masking” this natural signal could lead people to consume contaminated apples, which is why some folks are calling it the “botox apple.”
Further, since FDA does no independent, pre-market safety testing of GE food there are several unanswered questions about the safety of GE apples. “Silencing” the genes that make apples turn brown when exposed to oxygen could have unintended consequences that will only be tested by hungry consumers. Although these “botox apples” are primarily targeted to the fresh-sliced apple market they could also find their way into non-GE juice, baby foods or apple sauce at the processing level, all products predominantly eaten by children and babies who are at increased risk for any adverse health effects.
Like other GE products in the U.S., no mandatory labeling would be required. While Okanagan (the manufacturer) says they’ll require growers to label their whole apples as “Arctic variety,” the government has announced no plans to require labeling of these apples as GE. If approved, Okanagan’s non-browning “Arctic” apple would be first commercialized in Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties, with Fuji and Gala on the horizon.
Even the apple industry has opposed this genetically engineered product. The U.S. Apple Association, Northwest Horticultural Council (which represents Washington apple growers, who grow over 60% of the apples in the U.S.), British Columbia Fruit Growers Association and other grower groups have already voiced their disapproval of these GE apples due to the negative impact they could have on farmers growing organic and non-GE apples through contamination, and to the image of the apple industry as a whole.
If the apple industry doesn’t want GE apples, and consumers don’t want GE apples, who do these apples really benefit? As usual, this product only benefits the biotech industry and big food processing companies.