USDA Considers “Nonbrowning” Apple

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Consumers to directly benefit from new foods improved through biotechnology

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 19, 2012) – Modern agricultural biotechnology is fulfilling its promise to provide food products that directly benefit consumers.  An apple has been genetically engineered to be exactly like a conventional apple in every way, except that it is resistant to browningwhen cut, bruised or bitten.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) announced in the July 13 Federal Register that it is now accepting comments on Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF) Arctic® Apples.  This first comment period will close on September 11, 2012. 

OSF’s Arctic®Apples will undergo a recently-enhanced U.S. agency review process that now includes two opportunities for public input.  The second public comment period will begin when USDA publishes its preliminary decision.

“This is such an exciting time for the agricultural biotechnology sector because we’re starting to see those next generation products that directly benefit the consumer,” says Dr. Cathleen Enright, Executive Vice President for Food & Agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

Currently, approximately 90 percent of the corn, soybeans and sugar beets grown in the United States are biotech varieties, but these products are engineered to be pest resistant and herbicide tolerant, providing direct benefits to farmers and indirect benefits to consumers.  In fact, 16.7 million farmers in 29 countries are using seed varieties improved through genetic engineering and biotechnology because of the environmental and economic benefits they provide. 

The Arctic Apple, on the other hand, will enable moms to serve sliced apples that won’t turn brown, will allow caterers and food service providers to enhance the appearance of fresh fruit displays, and will cut down on waste at retail since apples won’t be discarded because of superficial bruising.

Dr. Enright says this is just the beginning of an era when consumers will enjoy the benefits that biotechnology-derived food can provide. 

“Soybeans with improved fatty acid profiles – such as omega-3 and high oleic acid – thatprovide a more heart-healthy source of oil are even further along the development pipeline,” explains Enright.  “Foods can also be improved through biotechnology to contain increased nutritional value such as vitamin A and iron, and increased amounts of natural cancer-fighting properties.” 

Arctic Apples use gene silencing to suppress the apple’s expression of polyphenol oxidase (PPO), the enzyme involved in browning when the fruit is bruised, bitten or cut.  The decreased PPO production results in an apple that won’t brown due to oxidation.  The Arctic Apples currently under consideration are Golden and Granny varieties, but OSF says any apple variety can be improved this way.

OSF says the aim of this technology was to enhance the appearance of apples so more apples get eaten, fewer get thrown away, and more of a family’s hard-earned money stays in their pockets. OFS believes increasing apple consumption is a goal everyone can support.


*More information on the Arctic® Apple and Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF) is posted online at www.arcticapples.com/media

**The “Petition for Determination of Nonregulated Status” submitted to USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) by Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF) is posted online at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/aphisdocs/10_16101p.pdf.

About BIO
BIO is the world's largest trade association representing biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world. BIOtechNOW is BIO's blog chronicling “innovations transforming our world” and the BIO Newsletter is the organization’s bi-weekly email newsletter. Subscribe to the BIO Newsletter.