Genetically modified Arctic apples from Okanagan Specialty Fruits in British Columbia, Canada, are awaiting deregulation by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which has completed its review process, -including -public comment periods.
GMO crops are controversial and have spurred debate. The debaters include apple marketers who, while not sharing concerns about the safety of genetically modified crops, fear the pristine image of apples could be tarnished and the mere presence of GMO apples could cause consumer backlash and cause consumption of all apples to fall.
The U.S. Apple Association has stated the industry position: The science is probably okay, but we can’t risk apples losing their healthful image and being rejected by -consumers. We don’t need GMO apples.
The creators of Arctic apples say apple consumption could increase if sliced apples didn’t turn brown and unappetizing. Arctic apples contain a gene that silences production of the enzyme that causes flesh browning. Sliced apples with that trait could elevate the position of apples as a convenient snack food where whole apples are too large a portion.
Despite any benefits, crops that are Genetically Modified Organisms remain anathema to a core of dedicated, vocal opponents. These opponents would like to see these “Frankenfoods” banned entirely or, if not banned, studied more intensively and labeled.
And then there is the position of the United States government. In 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled that a trait introduced into a food crop by genetic engineering is no different than a trait introduced by traditional plant breeding methods.
Battles over whether foods containing genetically modified crops need to be labeled have taken place in ballot boxes and legislatures in several states and even at the county levels, with California, Washington State, and Vermont drawing the most attention. -Labeling was rejected in referenda by voters in Washington and California.
In Vermont, the legislature passed—and the governor signed—a new law requiring that foods containing GMO ingredients be so labeled. The Grocery Manufacturers Association has sued to stop that law from taking effect, saying it could set a precedent for a patchwork of state regulations that would make food manufacturing and marketing much more -difficult and expensive.
Meanwhile, the bulk of Americans—and -increasing numbers of people in other countries—eat GMO foods every day. In the United States in 2012, 93 -percent of the soybeans and 88 percent of the corn came from GMO plants. No allergies or other toxic reactions have been reported from the sweeteners, starches, flours, cooking oils, and salad dressings, or the food or fiber products made from genetically -engineered crops.
Genetic engineers keep moving forward, too, -identifying genes and enhancing new crops with traits that improve nutrient value, impart tolerance to drought, disease, insects, and salt, or provide a host of other benefits. The list of genes that modify traits grows longer.
What’s the issue?
Opponents of GMOs pose many objections. For example, they do not believe organic crops can share the environment with GMO crops, since GMO traits could contaminate non-GMO crops through cross-pollination in the field.
But one basic concern is potentially insurmountable: The process by which GMO crops are -“deregulated,” basically cleared for -market, doesn’t address the key issues. They have asked the Food and Drug -Administration to change the way it regulates GMO crops.
In 1992, the FDA declared that genetically modified crops are “substantially equivalent,” meaning they are not materially different from crops produced by ordinary breeding processes, the Federation of American Scientists explains. Unless there are special circumstances, GMO crops are designated as “Generally Recognized as Safe” under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and do not require premarket approval. They do not need to be labeled or otherwise treated as different.
GMO opponents don’t buy that. They claim that the genetic engineering methods themselves—the process of putting a new gene into a plant cell using a -bacterium or firing it in on a bullet from a gene gun—does not carefully position the gene on a chromosome in a way that produces just the one desired effect. They claim there could be multiple, unknown effects. The plant is -holistically different, they say.
The government undertakes the deregulation in ways that treat GMO crops as fundamentally the same as -regular crops. Two, and sometimes three, agencies of the U.S. government may weigh in, depending upon the nature of the introduced gene.
FDA regulates food from GMO crops in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. FDA is responsible for regulating the safety of GMO crops that are eaten by humans or animals while APHIS is responsible for -protecting -agriculture from pests and disease, including making sure that all new GMO plant varieties pose no pest risk to other plants.
When pesticides are bioengineered into food crops, the U.S. -Environmental Protection Agency becomes involved to make sure the pesticides are safe for human and animal consumption and do not pose unreasonable risks of harm to human health or the environment.
Opponents criticize the -deregulation process, saying the FDA does not require special testing of genetically engineered foods for safety. FDA’s position is that food derived from GMO plants must adhere to the same safety requirements under the Federal Food, Drug, and -Cosmetic Act that apply to food and food ingredients derived from traditionally bred plants.
A key government position is that it uses science as the foundation for sound decisions on policy, -rulemaking, and -regulatory approvals. Experts in -scientific fields (e.g., plant pathology, botany, -entomology, virology, -ecology, -environmental science, molecular -biology, and biochemistry) assess plant pest risk and analyze -environmental effects while -considering the most -current peer-reviewed scientific findings.
The FDA says those concerned about GMO crops can buy organic products, which, if labeled organic, must be free of GMOs. The FDA has said it has no objection to food manufacturers labeling food products as containing GMO crops—and that it might be helpful to consumers to do so. But consumer demand is not a reason for requiring labeling, the FDA says.
The FDA also says requiring labels would imply that there is something inherently inferior about food containing GMOs, and that would contradict its basic position that foods containing GMOs are not substantially different.
The government agencies have made the GMO deregulation process transparent in that applications and supporting documentation are posted on their websites and public comment periods are offered. Comments are posted for anyone to read.
The comment periods—there were two for Arctic apples—focus on obtaining information relevant to the agency’s mission—determining whether the food is safe or whether the GMO crop might in some way threaten the environment or be a pest to other plants.
In its original comment period in 2012, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service received 1,939 comments on the petition, according a report on its -website.
Several of these comments included electronic attachments consisting of consolidated identical or nearly identical letters, for a total of 72,745 comments. Concerns raised related to marketing and economic impacts; cross-pollination; and health, nutrition, and food safety.
The last comment period on Arctic apples closed in December 2013, and a decision from the inspection -service has been expected for some time.
Anyone wanting to track the ongoing GMO debate can find a number of sites on the Internet. Those interested in views from the anti-GMO side can visit the website of the Organic Consumers Association (www.organicconsumers.org) and perhaps subscribe to Organic Bytes, a weekly e-mail newsletter. There, Ronnie Cummins wages battle against GMOs, the companies that make them, and the food companies that use them, and defends organic standards from debasement.
There are many websites on the pro-GMO side. One is the Genetic Literacy Project (www.geneticliteracyproject.org), which also has a weekly newsletter. Other pro-GMO sites include www.agbioworld.org, www.cropgen.org, and www.bio.org. Many of the larger companies involved with biotech crops have websites, and so does Okanagan Specialty Fruits (www.okspecialtyfruits.com and www.arcticapples.com), where it engages the public on behalf of its Arctic apples.
It’s a very clearcut issue. The foods they produce are very much untested. The arguments supporting them have holes the size of the Holland Tunnel. There are dozens of studies showing these crops are very dangerous. And the sheer hundreds of millions being spent isn’t helping their cause at all. Why would something they are so proud of have to be hidden from the American people, for 20 years? Very simply. They are trying to control the worlds food and they will do anything to do it. They need to be stopped and these crops need to be burned.
the objection about “contamination” of organic orchards really makes no sense at all. Crab apples are commonly planted within production blocks as a source of pollen, but no one is concerned that the desired variety will become “contaminated” any more than one needs to worry about the pollen that may be carried from a block of Gala next to a block of Fuji. When apples are cross pollinated, only the embryo portion of the seed has any genetic difference from the planted variety. Apples are not grown from seed (as hopefully any reader of this journal should know). The apple industry should not be giving even passing credence to the “cross contamination” issue.
As for unknown genetic changes: growers use all sorts of “sports” of existing varieties which are mutations of the DNA but which are never studied in detail. With the Arctic apple, the exact nature of the modified genes and where they sit in the apple DNA has been characterized and that data reviewed by regulators in the US and Canada. If anything this change is of less concern.
There may come a day when a new exotic pest threatens the apple crop as is now the case with Florida oranges. The Florida industry will most likely collapse because of juice companies unwillingness to try to explain a “GMO” solution to consumers. The apple industry would be well served to have that discussion with consumers based on a trait with consumer value that would be sold specifically as the improved type. The apple industry has the fully ability to “identity preserve” its fruit and that distinction is something consumers need to understand.
Steve Savage, Ph.D.
Your a Dr and you don’t know the difference between genetically engineered (forced) foods and hybridized or cross pollination. I am no Dr and I do.
I am comfortable for genetic modification via natural selection or hybridization but not genetic ‘engineering’ done via unnatural methods with viruses, bacteria, e-coli poop even human dna engineered into rice and that sort of thing spliced into my food that could never happen in nature. Nope don’t trust it and nope not buying it.
Sorry I am not comfortable with an apple that could silence genes… I want my genes just as they are thank you!
Horizontal Gene Transfer from GMOs Does Happen
GE has failed miserably on all of it’s promises of better yield, less pesticides, feeding the world etc. Why do they keep banging their head against the wall?
Well said, Richard.
Safety testing on GMO foods has been horribly inadequate thus far. To date there has not been one single peer reviewed, long term human feeding trial to establish safety. What’s more, plenty of independent researchers and doctors have demonstrated legitimate concern, substantiating the need for proper safety testing. The animal feeding trials have shown terrible results including organ, DNA and reproductive-system damage.
Those who stand to profit over patented seeds/crops are quick to rush products to market. Hey, given the financial opportunity to patent large segments of the food supply, who can blame them?
However, consumers and safety advocates rightfully demand responsibility and ethics be brought to mind on these topics. Is the potential risk to our health and the environment, worth an apple that does not brown? You cut an apple, then eat it. If I leave a grilled steak on the counter overnight it will spoil. Is the answer to create bioengineered meat that will artificially maintain attractiveness? Or just eat the steak in a timely manner?
Is that really a clever use of the millions of dollars it takes to go into this project?
In short, IMO the slim benefits do not outweigh the risk. There is no substantial reason to create GMO apples that actually benefits the people. This, once again, is about corporate profiteering than anything else.
And Richard, you trust the FDA and the USDA? You do know that a former employee of Monsanto runs the FDA, don’t you.
And there is a huge correlation between the huge increase in illnesses in the US and GMO foods.
You can ignore correlations I know but I am not. Check out Nancy Swanson’s work on correlation.
So many problems associated with this issue. The first is the fact that the biotech companies, the food industry, and our own government did not tell the public that GMOs exist and they are in our food chain–of course people are upset and suspicious! The next issue is the FDA and GMA claim that by labeling GMOs, consumers may ‘see’ the products as inferior and not purchase them. However, millions of Americans smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and eat tons of fatty, overly processed foods–why on Earth would anyone be concerned about these people’s food choices? Millions will still purchase GMOs knowingly. While those of us who understand the connection between nutrition and health, and fear dinning on chemicals is not the best option, will continue to avoid them. The next issue is that the biotech-seed companies claim their product is no different than actual food, however, this is not true. These products have been genetically altered in such a manner as not to be able to guarantee the exact outcomes will be what is desired. Also, if their seeds are normal why do the seed bags have all the warnings and legal disclaimers, while non-GMO seeds do not require a legally binding contract nor do they come with major legal disclaimers? The final issue is that proponents of GMOs keep claiming there have been no adverse health issues reported. How can people report a condition that is caused by GMOs, if they are unaware that they are even consuming them? And, there have recently been reports of an epidemic of kidney disease in rice farmers in Sri Lanka. There is also a major increase in food related allergies and sensitivities across the board since these foods entered our food chain. I have personally been affected adversely. I am not able to digest these foods, have lost 99 1/2 pounds unintentionally, and am now allergic to a slew of foods, medications, and skin care products.
When did the US forget that real food comes from nature? Why are we hell-bent on forcing our citizens to consume toxic chemicals that our own government knows are toxic (2-4, D is a perfect example–anyone remember Agent Orange? Well, that’s the latest chemical being cleared by the FDA for approval in GMOs)? The sheer number of cases of cancer and diabetes should be enough to make us seriously reconsider our food system, but the government does not see it that way. While the bio-tech companies make tons of money and buy off Washington, the rest of America will be getting sicker and sicker. Is this the future we really want?
If GMOs are really the future, why can’t we slow down and thoroughly test their safety and environmental impact?
And finally food for thought: China who loves polluting the planet and has no real concern for human health, does not want GMOs–this should be enough to convince anyone!!!
I won’t buy or eat this frankenapple. These mad scientists are just playing with us, I mean who cares if it browns, it’s supposed to. All of their false promises should be enough but here is some info:
Genetic Engineers are speaking out against GMOs.
These biotechnologists at one time believed in and supported GMOs. Is it time for you?
To see more scientists speaking out against GMOs, visit
“WHY THE FDA’S POLICY ON GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS IS IRRESPONSIBLE AND ILLEGAL”
Abby Martin – Confessions of an FDA Agent
Horizontal Gene Transfer from GMOs Does Happen
GMOs Shown to be Safe? Science Media Center Exposed for Incredible GMO Deceit
Genetically Engineered Corn May Cause Allergies, Infertility, and Disease
New Hazards in GMOs from Synonymous Mutations
Syngenta uses terrorist tactics against it’s own scientist who disagrees with them..
The price of truth… Because they dared to speak out about health and medical disasters they were persecuted by those they attacked.
The Corruption of Science
UN Report – Small Scale Organic Farming is the Only Way to Go
“Wake Up Before It’s Too Late:” New UN Report Calls for Dramatic Shift Toward Natural Agriculture
May 19 2014 – GM Foods Neither Safe Nor Needed, Say Genetic Engineers – GMO Myths and Truths2
THE GMO EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES (covers all the false promises)
Come people, wake up to the fact that Genetic Engineering exists solely to sell more pesticide$, herbicide$, and fungicide$ (and it is failing, superbugs, superweeds, even superfungi) and has NO other benefits! AND hey are killing our bees! We need bees to pollinate our food! #GMOFAIL
Have GMOs helped to feed the world, reduce the use of pesticides, or increase yield as proponents have promised? No.
How long before it’s too late?
GMO crops contaminating non-GMO crops across globe through cross-pollination.
This is my biggest fear.. Putting genes back in bottles.
Anyone here who feels as I do might want to sign/share a few petitions.
Stop Biotech’s new Kiss of Death GMO Apple
Stop the approval of GMO apples!
Tell the USDA to reject GMO apples.
Demand Safety Testing of Genetically Modified Apples
Contact the USDA
Tom Vilsack, USDA Secretary of Agriculture:
Yes, team organic is all worried about a smidge of DNA–that as Steve Savage explained has no bearing on the fruit.
But remember how keen they were to use non-“organic” materials when threatened, demanding special dispensation to do so? http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/04/08/176606069/surprise-organic-apples-and-pears-aren-t-free-of-antibiotics
Yeah. It’s organic when we say it’s organic, even if it’s not. I heard about a talk the other day at a plant pathology meeting and one of the scientists said this:
Jennifer Thomson: “I cannot understand why organic farmers don’t get behind GM crops: what’s more organic than DNA?” #APS14