U.S. consumers to comment on GM non-browning apples
Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny apples are among the first biotechnology produce to undergo a recently-enhanced U.S. agency review process that now includes two opportunities for public input.
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the opening of the first 60-day public comment period on the two apple varieties last Friday.
Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF) founder and president Neal Carter, said he was “delighted” to be one of the first companies to take part in APHIS’ extended review process.
“We’re confident these public comment opportunities will reassure consumers and producers alike that Arctic apples address browning in an innocuous way, so that we can move on to the work of getting more people eating more apples.”
Arctic apples use gene silencing to suppress the apple’s expression of polyphenol oxidase (PPO), the enzyme involved in browning when the fruit is bruised, bitten or cut.
Test orchards were planted in two of the U.S. main apple growing areas, Washington state in 2003 and New York state in 2005.
OSF submitted its petition for non-regulated status to APHIS in May 2011 and was notified its petition was complete in Feburary this year.
“We have approximately 10 years of real-world field trial experience demonstrating that our Arctic trees behave no differently from conventional trees, and that Arctic apples are compositionally and nutritionally similar to conventional apples,” said Carter.
“It’s not until an Arctic apple is bruised, bitten or cut and doesn’t brown that the Arctic difference becomes very clear.”
The second U.S. comment period is expected to open about six months following closure of the first feedback stage. If no substantive issues are raised the public will have a further 30 days to review APHIS’ assessments before the organization publishes a final decision.
OSF’s application for a test orchard for its Arctic apple varieties in British Columbia prompted strong opposition by local fruit farmers last month, who said they were afraid of cross-contamination.
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