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Public Can Comment Until Midnight Monday, September 12
The USDA is nearing approval of a third genetically engineered apple from Okanagan Specialty Fruits. The company’s Fuji GMO apple is designed not to brown when sliced or exposed to air. Any apple eater knows that an apple’s freshness and peak nutrition is reflected by the lack of browning.
Okanagan’s non-browning apple, however, is a marketer’s dream, allowing them to deceptively sell what appears to be fresh, high quality fruit. The company describes their GMO apple as a “cost-saving means for the fresh sliced apple business.” The reality is that the GMO apple is a bit like a Twinkie (which can seemingly appear fresh for decades), as consumers will have no idea how fresh the company’s Arctic brand apples actually are.
The USDA is accepting public comments on the proposal until midnight Monday (EST), September 12, on the Fuji GMO apple.
Cornucopia examined the science behind the company’s non-browning apples when they first sought approval for their other GMO varieties. The company inserts nptII, a neomycin phosphotransferase type II gene from E. coli Tn5. This gene allows transformed apple tissue to grow on a medium containing the antibiotic kanamycin, but confers no benefit to the apple plant.
In other words, every cell of every GMO apple tree, including the apple fruit, and the roots of the trees, will show resistance to the antibiotic kanamycin. Kanamycin is used to treat a wide variety of human infectious diseases and is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.
The USDA left unexplored the question of potential changes to bacteria in the human digestive system from exposure to the GMO apple’s resistance to kanamycin. What is known is that resistance to antibiotics is a major concern among medical professionals. Further afield, the apple’s GMO DNA will repeatedly be added to the orchard soil and soil bacteria as leaves and unharvested apples fall from trees each autumn. The environmental impacts are similarly unknown.
The Fuji cultivar is the 5th most popular apple grown in the United States. Okanagan previously received approval from the USDA for its Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties, known as Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden.
It’s worth noting that GMO technology is expressly prohibited in organic agriculture. Consumers interested in avoiding Okanagan’s science experiment can do so by purchasing certified organic apples.