Agribusiness and genetic engineers have set their sights on genetically altering the noble apple. In a move that should interest Oregonians (our state is 7th in the nation in apple production) Okanagan, a Canadian company, is using a USDA fast-track process to request the USDA approve a genetically engineered (GE) apple that won’t brown when sliced.
If approved, Okanagan’s “Arctic” apple would be first commercialized in Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties.
Salem health advocates are alarmed. One is Roxanne Magnuson. “Genetically engineered food needs to be much further studied before we use it as our food,” she says. She notes that until now, all testing has been done by the companies involved – not independent researchers.
“If you typed “’dangers of genetically modified food’ into your web browser, you’d be shocked,” she adds.
Apple browning is a naturally occurring phenomenon that happens when cut fruit is exposed to oxygen. It does not affect the taste or nutritional value of apples.
Unlike breeding fruit for sweetness and yield, which humans have done for thousands of years, genetic modification for browning seems ludicrous to people like Magnuson. These folks believe the intrinsic nature of strawberries is to be thumb-sized powerhouses of sweet fruity deliciousness, and that we shouldn’t put things in our bodies that we don’t fully understand.
“I’m very passionate,” Magnuson says. “This is an incredibly beautiful planet we live in and I wish we would stop poisoning it.”
Okanagan’s GE apples would be targeted mainly for the fresh-sliced apple products but could also end up in non-GE fruit slices, baby food, applesauce – products primarily consumed by children and babies.
The apple industry, including the US Apple Association, the Northwest Horticultural Council and the British Columbia Fruit Growers Association has opposed the new verities. They want to protect the market for farmers growing organic and other non-GE apples.
“Apples are such a great fresh food,” Magnuson says. “Even one GE variety seems like a bad idea. So what if it gets a little brown? Eat your apple now!”
Magnuson works at LifeSource natural Foods on South Commercial, where the store has put out postcards on their Information Counter, stamped & addressed, so customers can speak their minds about GE apples to the USDA.