Should US approve non-browning apple?November 30, 2010 @ 8:42 am (Updated: 1:37 pm - 3/28/11 )
As a Canadian biotech company asks the U.S. to approve a genetically modified apple that doesn't brown, many sides are weighing in on the danger or value of genetically modified produce.
"Genetically modified _ that's a bad word in our industry," Todd Fryhover, president of the apple commission in Washington state, which produces more than half the U.S. crop, told the Associated Press.
Alex Berezow, Editor of RealClearScience.com, says there is overwhelming evidence that genetically modified foods are safe. "If you had Thanksgiving dinner most likely half the stuff on your table was genetically modified. If you drink soy milk, those soybeans, most soybeans in this country are genetically modified. You put sweetener in your coffee? That comes from genetically modified crops. Turkeys and animals are often fed genetically modified feed. It's everywhere."
The USDA's biotechnology regulations are designed to ensure that genetically modified crops are just as safe for agriculture and the environment as traditionally bred crop varieties, spokesman R. Andre Bell said in a statement. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service works with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, depending on the product, to ensure safety.
Fryhover raised concerns about cross-pollination of conventional trees with genetically modified ones if they were planted in close proximity.
Berezow told 770 KTTH's David Boze that the impact on the environment is a valid concern. "When you put a new gene into the gene pool you want to make sure you're not going to spread something nasty into the environment."
Okanagan Specialty Fruits of Summerland, British Columbia, licensed the non-browning technology from Australian researchers who pioneered it in potatoes. Essentially, the genes responsible for producing the enzyme that induces browning have been silenced in the apple variety being marketed as "Arctic."
"There's something about an apple. It's the symbol of health and nutrition, and then to turn around and say it's been genetically modified, doesn't that go against what consumers say they're looking for?" Fryhover asked. "Right now, I wouldn't say the industry is poised to go either direction. We need to know more."
Berezow says there's no evidence that genetically modified food is less healthy than other options. "The organic food industry is seeking money, and it's very profitable. And in my opinion, they're not basing their industry on solid science. There is so far really no evidence that organic food is any healthier than genetically modified food. It has the same nutrients in it."
The approval process can take years, and it's not clear the apples will be accepted even if they pass government inspection.
Everyone agreed that consumers will make the final call. They have largely accepted other genetically modified crops, but whether they will do the same with apples remains to be seen.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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