December 12, 2013
The small BC company called Okanagan Specialty Fruits has asked the Canadian and U.S. governments to approve a genetically modified (GM) “non-browning” apple. The GM apple could be approved in 2014. Contamination from GM apples threatens the future of our apples, and the farmers who grow them.
The U.S. government took one more step towards approving the GM “non-browning” apple: On November 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture invited the public to comment on a draft environmental assessment of the GM apple.
Press Release - November 12: GM Apple Closer to Regulatory Approval, Further from Consumer Acceptance
Update, November 7, 2013:McDonald's and Gerber say no to GM apple
- Write to your provincial agriculture minister and ask them to take action to protect the apple growers in your area from the GM apple.
- Write or call your federal Member of Parliament. You can look up their contacts using your postal code at www.parl.gc.ca
Take Action in BC
What's wrong with the GM apple?
- There are already safe techniques that the industry and consumers use to slow browning after apples are cut (the industry uses ascorbic acid and the public uses lemon juice).
- Consumers don’t want the GM apple. 69% of Canadians don't want the GM apple approved (according to a 2012 survey conducted for the BC Fruit Growers' Association and the Quebec Apple Producers' Association).
- The BC Fruit Growers' Association is asking for a moratorium on approval of the GM apple.
- Organic growers are concerned about contamination from GM apples because GM is prohibited in organic farming.
- Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are reviewing the GM apple in secret. The government does not consult with farmers and consumers, and does not consider economic or social concerns before it approves a new GM crop.
The GM “non-browning” apple is engineered to keep from going brown after being cut. The technology was developed in Australia and licensed by the small BC company called Okanagan Specialty Fruits. Okanagan Specialty Fruits asked for approval in the US and Canada.The GM apple has not yet been approved anywhere in the world. The company wants approval to use of the GM trait in Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples but they say they want to also engineer Gala and Fuji apples.
- 69% of Canadians oppose the GM apple! See the consumer survey commissioned by the BC Fruit Growers Association and the Quebec Apple Producers Association, July 3, 2012.
- Press Release, August 14, 2012: GM Apple Jeopardizes Okanagan’s Reputation, say local groups
- Letter from Okanagan groups to Okanagan Specialty Fruits
How is the apple engineered?
The company has silenced a gene in the apple that controls browning by inserting modified apple DNA as well as genetic material from at least three different species:
- A regulatory gene switch from a plant virus (Cauliflower Mosaic virus promoter: CaMV 35S);
- A terminator sequence from a bacterium (Agrobacterium tumefaciens taken from its Nopaline synthase gene: nos);
- An antibiotic resistance marker gene from a bacterium (Streptomyces kanamyceticus), here the nptII gene (which confers resistance to the antibiotic kanamycin).
What are apple growers saying?
The BC Fruit Growers' Association has asked for a moratorium on the review of the GM apple.
In 2001, BC apple growers stopped the GM apple from being field tested in Canada. The federal government agricultural station in Summerland in the Okanagan valley, an important fruit growing area, was preparing to start field trials but BC growers who were concerned about contamination stopped these field trials from happening. As a consequence, the company has tested all their apple trees in the U.S.
In September 2011, CBAN and organizations from across BC organized a series of public events to discuss genetic engineering. At an event in Keremeos, Lee McFadyen of Mariposa Organic Farm and the Live Earth Organic Growers Association pointed out that there are already several varieties of apple that are slow to brown. On the GM apple, orchardist Andrea Turner of the Similkameen Okanagan Organic Producers Association said, “The tree fruit industry cannot afford anything silly like that”. Read the concerns of the Similkameen Okanagan Organic Treefruit Growers Association, BC.
The U.S. Apple Association "does not support the approval of this product" and says "Consumers like their apples and are not calling for these new “nonbrowning” cultivars." http://www.usapple.org/consumers/all-about-apples/consumer-updates-information
"Apples are healthy and nutritious they way they are. Browning is a natural process that results from exposure to oxygen. There are already naturally low-browning apples in the marketplace. In addition if you just put some vitamin C fortified apple juice on sliced or cut apples it will also prevent browning." - Mark Gedris, Director of Membership & Communications for U.S. Apple Association
- July 27, 2012 - CBAN Letter to the Editor: GM Apple Not Simple, Published in the Western Producer
- Taking the bite out of GM apples, by Lucy Sharratt, Common Ground magazine, July 2012
- Apple Cravings, Harry Burton, Canadian Organic Growers, June 2012.
- The CFIA "public comment" period is over. Read CBAN's comments on the GM apple to the CFIA here. (Related: July 9, 2012 - Press Release: GM Apple Closer to U.S. Approval: Farce of Canadian public consultation exposed and Letter to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency from CBAN, Public Process Lacking on Genetically Engineered Foods: Request to halt regulatory evaluation of GE "non-browning" apple July 9, 2012.