Arctic®, conventional and organic apple trees can coexist

One of our website FAQs addresses the topic of co-existence: Will Arctic® apple trees be a threat to conventional or organic apple trees, by crossbreeding with trees growing near them? For a variety of reasons, the answer is “NO!”

Arctic, conventional and organic apple orchards can coexistAdmittedly, co-existence has been an issue for some genetically-modified row crops. However, apples are very different from row crops, so it is not accurate to draw comparisons.

First, apple trees aren’t “weedy” – they don’t escape and grow in the wild like some other crops can. For millennia we apple growers have created new apple trees via vegetative propagation, not by planting seeds. To create a new tree, we cut a bit of bud wood from a donor tree and graft it onto recipient rootstock; it grows into a tree that produces apples that are the same variety as the donor.

Second, apple blossoms are pollinated by bees, not by wind as row crops are. Bees won’t travel far from their hives; that is why apple growers plant pollinating trees every 15 m (50 ft) or so in their orchard blocks, and must strategically place beehives throughout the orchard during bloom time to assure proper pollination. So the risk of “gene flow” by traveling pollen is inherently very low for apples compared to other crops. Our grower standards will further reduce that already low risk, for example by defining buffer distances and calling for hedge rows between Arctic® apple orchards and other apple orchards.

To answer the question another way, yes, we can all get along. The natural reality of how apples are pollinated combined with orchard practices such as buffers will act like fences between Arctic® and other orchards. And as Robert Frost noted, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

P.S. As we’ve noted in our FAQ, even if Arctic® apple pollen does fertilize a conventional or organic apple blossom, Arctic® apple genes might be present only in a small portion of the resulting fruits’ inedible seeds – not in the apples’ edible parts.

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