National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

The 60-day comment period on the petition to deregulate the biotech Arctic apple is getting some serious press coverage today.

Check out The New York Times coverage "That fresh, genetically buffed look" here and the many reader comments that follow on.

I had a chat with Neal Carter of Okanagan Specialty Fruits today and I'll publish the Q and A from that discussion next week in this space.

Meanwhile, today, the U.S. Apple Association issued a response to the Arctic apple. I've posted it below.


From U.S. Apple:

In response to the request by USDA/APHIS REQUEST for Public Comment on Two Petitions requesting Deregulation of Genetically Engineered Apples, Federal Register, July 13, 2012

 • U.S. Apple Association (USApple) does not support the regulatory proposal pending before the USDA to fully deregulate genetically engineered (GE) “ArcticTM” apples. Full deregulation would allow the free and open planting of trees which produce these apples.

Consumers like their apples and are not calling for these new “nonbrowning” cultivars. The apples under review have been engineered to prevent or “turn off” the expression of the gene that affects the browning of apples.

 Browning is a natural process resulting from exposure to oxygen. Apples that are naturally very low browning are already in the marketplace. In addition, lightly coating sliced or cut apples with Vitamin C-fortified apple juice delays browning prior to serving. (Most apple juice is fortified with Vitamin C.)

  USApple’s position is not based on any question about human health or safety.

 • USApple informed USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspective Service (APHIS) last year of our opposition to the full deregulation of these GE apples. Our position remains unchanged.

 • There are no GE apples currently sold in our country’s marketplace.

 • In order to continue discovering new and valuable benefits from apples, USApple supports advancements from technology and genetics and genomics research.

 Benefits can include attributes such as quality, new apple varieties, new aromatic flavor profiles, improved pest resistance and enhanced nutrition from tree to table.

 • Ultimately, the future of GE apples in the United States will be determined by USDA’s decision on the two petitions and by the marketplace. The market will have time to decide, since new apple trees take years to come into production after starting in the plant nursery and being planted in the orchard.

TK:  If I was an apple marketer, I'm sure I would agree with the cautious position of U.S. Apple. Eventually, however, researchers will find a use of genetic engineering that solves a critical problem for the apple industry, whether that be fireblight resistance or some other long-desired trait. It would be better, when that time eventually comes, to have the market acceptance issue settled. Why not let Arctic be the test case?