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Arctic Fuji apple gains approval despite anti-GMO opposition

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 22:26
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A third genetically modified apple variety, the Arctic Fuji, has gained U.S. approval and the grower responsible for it plans next to seek approval for genetically modified Arctic Gala apples.

Neal Carter founded Okanagen Speciality Fruits in 1996 in Summerland, British Columbia. The company has developed and gained approval for genetically modified apples that have non-browning properties.

Developed by bioresource engineer Neal Carter, founder and president of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. in Summerland, British Columbia, the Arctic Fuji joins the Arctic golden delicious and granny smith varieties. All three varieties have been genetically modified to reduce browning.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture granted the non-browning Arctic Fuji approval in late September. As part of the review process, the agency sought public comment on the genetically modified organism (GMO).

The 30-day comment period from Aug. 12 through Sept. 12 had netted only 19 comments as of Aug. 25, with 18 of those comments in support of approval for the GMO Fuji.

By the Sept. 12 deadline, 626 comments had been filed with APHIS, with those against approval outnumbering those in favor by about 10 to 1. Among those commenters opposed to the GMO apple was the Center for Food Safety, which attached a letter signed by more than 25,000 of its members opposing the apple.

Many of the comments against approval for the Arctic Fuji stated flat opposition to any and all GMOs. They also asked for foods to be labeled if they contain GMOs. Some opponents said browning of sliced apples can be controlled with a lemon-juice solution, suggesting the genetic modification is unnecessary.

Comments in support of the non-browning Arctic Fuji cited reduction of food waste and convenience as their primary reasons for encouraging the government to allow the apple to be sold in the U.S.

“The response to Arctic Fuji apples and our overall platform to deliver direct benefits to consumers has been encouraging,” bioresource engineer and fruit grower Carter said in a news release. “We are confident the positive feedback we have received will translate to the marketplace.”

In August, Carter told the Capital Press that about 1,000 to 1,200, 40-pound boxes of Arctic Goldens will be sliced and sold in test marketing in grocery stores in the western U.S. this fall.

The genetically modified apples from Okanagan Specialty Fruit Inc. have been altered through a reduction of the enzyme polyphenol oxidase, the primary cause of browning in fruit, according to the news release.

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