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The Apple is "Now Better Thanks to Genetic Modification"

April 2, 2015
In a recent editorial, the Wall Street Journal discusses whether or not the recently USDA approved genetically engineered apple, Arctic® Apple, and potatoInnate™ potato, can win customers amid fear and loathing from interest groups that sow distrust of genetically modified foods, or GMOs.

...Arctic and Innate are among the first genetically modified foods pitched in part to consumers, rather than directly to farmers dealing with drought or pests. Like all genetically engineered foods, they’ve undergone extensive safety testing. Arctic apples could help grocery stores and school cafeterias—paging Michelle Obama—offer more fresh-cut apples. Innate potatoes can be shipped long distances without preservatives.

About a third of global food production is wasted every year, according to U.N. estimates, and apples are among the most pitched produce. Less blight also means farmers can use more of what they harvest, and Simplot estimates that switching over to Innate potatoes could help save 400 million pounds of potato waste a year, along with 6.7 billion gallons of water and 60 million pounds of carbon emissions thanks to reduced acreage.

"So it’s ironic that battling against this progress is . . . the green lobby. The Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth and others fought the approval by calling the science risky and untested. The process basically involves rearranging genes, without the insertion of something from another organism that tends to freak people out about genetic modification. The companies have spent more than a decade developing the technology, and no one has become ill from eating a GMO since the technology was rolled out in the mid-1990s."

...USDA and the FDA should be doing more to beat back the hysteria, starting by picking up the approval pace. Okanagan applied for USDA approval in 2010 and won it in February. Then there’s a voluntary (really all-but-mandatory) review by the FDA that took from 2011 until March 2015. By comparison, Innate potatoes whizzed through the process—and Simplot petitioned USDA in 2013.

With such a lengthy and expensive regulatory process, as well as interest-group wailing, it’s a wonder scientists still make breakthroughs like the Arctic apple. The loser is society: For years major leaps like allergen-free peanuts have been in the pipeline, but fearmongers are keeping an agricultural equivalent of the iPhone from the market.

In a recent blog post, Okanagan Specialty Fruits spoke to where the company is now that the USDA has approved Arctic® apples,

“The first quarter or 2015 may have just ended, but it’s one that won’t soon be forgotten by OSF. In the wake of the USDA’s approval of Arctic® apples and our company’s acquisition by Intrexon in February, the milestones kept coming with Canadian and FDA approval on March 20. For a small team like ours, getting so much attention – including from major media outlets like WSJ, NY Times & Globe and Mail – was nothing short of overwhelming.

"You wouldn’t believe the number of growers who want to plant, retailers who want to sell, and consumers who want to eat Arctic apples that have reached out to us. And yet the unfortunate truth is that many supporters feel pressure to keep their excitement on the down-low, as they don’t want the headache of becoming part of the polarized discussion of ‘GMOs.’”

We encourage you to continue reading OSF's blog "Snapping the Habit of Snap Judgments" and learn more about the story of the first genetically engineered apple and where it will go now that it has been approved by the USDA.