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USDA Gives Go-Ahead to Bioengineered Arctic Apples

Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF), the developer of the apples through the use of biotechnology, estimates the genetically engineered fruit will be available late next year in small quantities.

Josh Long

February 25, 2015

2 Min Read
USDA Gives Go-Ahead to Bioengineered Arctic Apples

Tired of browning apples? A Canadian company has developed a cure that has been approved by an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Earlier this month, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced its decision to deregulate two apple varieties that have been engineered to resist browning: Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny apples. In a Feb. 13 press release, APHIS said it found the “apples are unlikely to pose a plant pest risk to agriculture and other plants in the United States." The agency also determined its deregulation decision would not significantly impact the human environment.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF), the developer of the apples through the use of biotechnology, estimates the genetically engineered fruit will be available late next year in small quantities. It will be a number of years before the non-browning apples are widely distributed, said Neal Carter, president and founder of OSF, in a statement.

“It might make sense to use such a product for pre-sliced apple slices or in fruit salad or salad bars," said Gregory Jaffe, biotechnology director for the Center for Science in the Public, in a statement.

The grower is voluntarily consulting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regarding the safety of the apples, according to APHIS. The products are probably the most widely tested apples on the planet, said Carter, who added the company did not significantly tinker with apples.

OSF simply reduced “the expression of a single enzyme," he said. “There are no novel proteins in Arctic fruit and their nutrition and composition is equivalent to their conventional counterparts."

Some consumer groups, however, questioned whether APHIS’ review was sufficiently rigorous. OSF’s apples are genetically engineered through an experimental technique known as RNA interference, according to a press release issued by Friends of the Earth, an environmental advocacy group. Scientists are concerned the technology may adversely affect human health and the environment, according to the organization.

"We are concerned that USDA's safety evaluation of this apple was inadequate, particularly with regard to the health and environmental implications of this particular RNAi technology," said Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, in a statement.

About the Author(s)

Josh Long

Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider, Informa Markets Health and Nutrition

Josh Long directs the online news, feature and op-ed coverage at Natural Products Insider, which targets the health and wellness industry. He has been reporting on developments in the dietary supplement industry for over a decade, with a focus on regulatory issues, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

He has moderated and/or presented at industry trade shows, including SupplySide East, SupplySide West, Natural Products Expo West, NBJ Summit and the annual Dietary Supplement Regulatory Summit.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn and ping him with story ideas at [email protected]

Education and previous experience

Josh majored in journalism and graduated from Arizona State University the same year "Jake the Snake" Plummer led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, was admitted in 2008 to practice law in the state of Colorado and spent a year clerking for a state district court judge.

Over more than a quarter century, he’s written on various topics for newspapers and business-to-business publications – from the Yavapai in Arizona and a controversial plan for a nuclear-waste incinerator in Idaho to nuanced issues, including FDA enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Since the late 1990s, his articles have been published in a variety of media, including but not limited to, the Cape Cod Times (in Massachusetts), Sedona Red Rock News (in Arizona), Denver Post (in Colorado), Casper Star-Tribune (in Wyoming), now-defunct Jackson Hole Guide (in Wyoming), Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

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