Saturday, February 14, 2015

U.S., but not yet Canada, approves GMO apple

An apple variety modified with an inserted gene that keeps cut fruit from turning brown has been approved for sale in the United States but not yet in Canada.

It has been developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. of Summerland, B.C. It has taken about five years to gain approval from the United States Department of Agriculture for its Arctic variety.

The U.S.D.A. said Friday the apple is unlikely to pose a risk to agriculture or plants inside the country and the company can now market the product to growers.

Company president Neal Carter said critics of the apple need to understand the fruit is safe for consumption.

"This is a very, very arduous, rigorous and comprehensive review in science and regulatory oversight. These are the safest apples in the world," he said. "They're certainly the most tested apples in the world."

But Fred Steele of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association cautioned that consumers might not like a GMO apple and said it poses a risk to the organic market.

Carter said the insertion of a single gene is much more precise than conventional breeding.

"In our case it's very specific. We know exactly the gene we're targeting," he said. "It's the equivalent of sort of flicking a light switch versus turning off the power grid to New York City."

But Carter said the Arctic apples are a huge opportunity to introduce the product to the food-service industry.

He said it might do for apples what baby carrots did for that vegetable.