The public comment period on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposal the genetically modified Arctic apple has been extended.

Originally set to expire Dec. 9, the USDA extended the comment period to Dec. 16.

“Technical issues” caused the extension, according to a USDA release. The Federal Register website may have not allowed comment posting, according to a USDA release. Also, links in Federal Register notices were incorrect and may have caused confusion.

Comments can be submitted online. The website has logged more than 2,200 comments.

An overwhelming majority of the public comments were running against non regulated status for the biotech, non-browning apple.

One apple industry marketer is wary of consumer perceptions of the entire category because of the Arctic apple.

“My overall sense is that we need to send very clear messages to the buying public,” said Keith Mathews, chief executive officer of FirstFruits Marketing of Washington LLC, Yakima, Wash.

Mathews said he was on the sales staff of an apple shipper in 1989, selling to Safeway, when the CBS “60 Minutes” news program highlighted the use of Alar on apples. During that time, even retailers who displayed signs that apples were not treated with Alar paid a big price in lost sales. In fact, those apples that had signs declaring no Alar was applied struggled more than the same apples with no sign.

“The consumer base doesn’t clearly understand these issues and when it gets to technical science of GMO or not GMO and how apples and other products are brought to market, they will not have clarity,” he said. “The Washington industry has zero interest in delivering to the public anything that is deemed genetically modified.”