Friday, March 20, 2015

Non-browning apple coming to Canadians

A genetically-modified apple is coming to market in Canada, fuelled by a $41-million deal and approval from Health Canada.

The Health Canada approval came a few weeks after United States gave the genetic change its approval.

British Columbia Fruit Growers Association and a group of growers in Quebec have opposed approval of the new apples, not because they are in any way unsafe, but because it might scare off foreign buyers of all Canadian apples.

The apple has had a gene added so it produces fewer of the enzymes that result in browning when an apple is sliced.

The research and development has been done by Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF).

Now Intrexon, an American company involved in synthetic biology, has bought the technology for $31 million worth of shares and $10 million cash.

"Over the next couple of years, we will be working hard with our grower partners to get as many Arctic trees in the ground as we can," OSF president Neal Carter wrote on his company blog Friday.

Two varieties are leading the charge – Arctic granny and Arctic golden.

Health Canada says the new apples have been through a thorough scientific analysis and deemed to be safe.

"It was determined that the changes made to the apple did not pose a greater risk to human health than apples currently available on the Canadian market," Health Canada' says on its website.

The research found no evidence that the Arctic apple would impact allergies or that its nutritional value was in any way altered.

"The science behind the Arctic apple is quite simple," Health Canada states. "A gene was introduced into the Arctic apple that results in a reduction in the levels of enzymes that make apples turn brown when sliced. In every other way, the Arctic apple tree and its fruit are identical to any other apple."