During the recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) public comment period on Arctic® Granny and Arctic® Golden apples, a number of re-occurring misconceptions arose which are addressed in this blog.
Agricultural biotechnology, which consumers are self-admittedly uniformed about, is a complicated subject. When there’s a new product that utilizes this technology, myths and incorrect information commonly follow. Biotechnology is a polarizing topic for many and unfortunately, this has led to a vocal minority propagating erroneous statements that mislead the general public.
Perhaps the most widely spread myth is that Arctic® apple orchards will cross-pollinate with organic orchards, causing them to lose organic certification. The reality is that no organic crop has been decertified as a result of inadvertent pollen gene flow from a biotech crop. Furthermore, while the topic of cross-pollination is addressed at length in our petition and blog, it is important to reiterate that apple trees are not “weedy” and don’t escape to grow wild, working bees stay very close to the hive when an orchard is in bloom because of the abundant food, stewardship standards will further reduce the low risk of cross-pollination, and in the unlikely scenario cross-pollination did occur, only some of the resulting fruit’s seeds (which are not used) would contain any Arctic® material.
Arctic® apples are just like any other apple until they are cut, bitten or bruised and are just as safe and healthy. It is important to emphasize that no new proteins are expressed in Arctic® fruit. Polyphenol oxidase genes, which are responsible for browning, are silenced in Arctic® apples, and no new enzymes are needed to accomplish this. Additionally, antioxidants and other substrates are consumed when an apple turns brown, but when the cells of Arctic® fruit are damaged, these antioxidants are actually left intact.
Some have suggested that Arctic® apples will mislead consumers by disguising old or damaged fruit; quite the opposite is true! The harmless, but unsavory, discoloration that comes with enzymatic browning doesn’t occur in Arctic® apples. When a fruit does show damage or decay (Arctic® fruit rots just the same as conventional fruit), you know it’s more than just a superficial issue. If an Arctic® apple looks bad, it is; if it looks good, it is!
Misconceptions like these are not likely to affect the deregulation processes, as regulatory review is science and evidence based. It is simply unfortunate that consumers may be misled by incorrect information. We at Okanagan Specialty Fruits truly believe in the value of transparency and open communication, and do our best to ensure that accurate information is available to all who look for it. We encourage all those with questions to visit our websites, particularly the FAQ section, for more information.