Published January 15, 2011
If Okanagan Specialty Fruits’s nonbrowning apples win U.S. government approval for development and marketing, they will not be the first genetically modified fruits to come to market.
The first, of course, was the FlavrSavr tomato, approved in 1994 and used in the manufacture of tomato paste until it was discontinued in 1997. A number of issues contributed to its disuse, none of them related to its GMO status.
The Rainbow papaya won government approval in 1999 as the answer to papaya ringspot virus, which was ruining the Hawaiian industry. Today, three-fourths of the Hawaiian crop is of the Rainbow variety.
In 2004, the HoneySweet plum was approved for planting and marketing. It had been genetically modified to be immune to plum pox virus.
Researchers in Italy reported in 2004 that they had created four scab-resistant Gala apple lines using agrobacteria-mediated insertion of the HcrVf2 gene. It was done for research purposes—to prove the method works.
“This strategy will allow the transfer of resistance from a wild apple species to any commercial apple genotype while maintaining the horticultural and fruit-quality traits growers and consumers prize most,” they wrote in their report.
Both Rainbow papaya and Honey-Sweet plum were developed by U.S Department of Agriculture scientists seeking to solve problems not overcome by conventional plant breeding. Similar solutions are being discussed as cures for problems plaguing other fruits—citrus greening, virus diseases in bananas, and virus and other disease problems in grapes.