Canadian company's genetically modified apples win US approval

14.02.2015 14:43

US regulators have approved what would
be the first commercialised biotech apples,
rejecting efforts by the organic industry
and other GMO critics to block the new
The US Department of Agriculture’s animal
and plant health authority, Aphis,
approved two genetically engineered
apple varieties designed to resist
browning that have been developed by the
Canadian company Okanagan Specialty
Okanagan plans to market the apples as
Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden, and says
the apples are identical to their
conventional counterparts except the flesh
of the fruit will retain a fresh appearance
after it is sliced or bruised.
The company’s president, Neal Carter,
called the USDA approval “a monumental
“It is the biggest milestone yet for us and
we can’t wait until they’re available for
consumers,” he said.
Arctic apples would first be available in
late 2016 in small quantities but not
widely distributed for some years, Carter
The new Okanagan apples have drawn
broad opposition. The Organic Consumers
Association (OCA), which petitioned the
USDA to deny approval, says the genetic
changes that prevent browning could be
harmful to human health and pesticide
levels on the apples could be excessive.
The OCA would pressure food companies
and retail outlets not to use the fruit, said
its Director Ronnie Cummins. “This whole
thing is just another big experiment on
humans for no good reason,” he said.
USDA said it had determined the apples
were “unlikely to pose a plant pest risk to
agriculture” and they are “not likely to
have a significant impact on the human
environment”. The law only allows the
agency’s decision to be based on its
analysis of the plant pest risk to
agriculture or other plants in the United
The Food and Drug Administration, which
has no mandatory review process for
genetically engineered foods, is looking at
the new apples through a voluntary
consultation with Okanagan.
Several science, environmental and
consumer groups have said they worry the
genetic changes could have unintended
consequences for insects, animals and
“We think there are some possible risks
that were not adequately considered,” said
Doug Gurian-Sherman, a plant pathologist
and senior scientist with the Centre for
Food Safety non-profit group.
Okanagan said in a statement its apples
had undergone “rigorous review” and were
“likely the most tested apples on the