Friday, March 18, 2011

US growers fight GE apples

U.S. growers fight GE apples
By Dan Wheat
Capital Press
March 18, 2011

Industry says public perception of the fruit could hurt sales

The U.S. apple industry is asking USDA not to allow genetically engineered, non-browning apples from Canada to be produced in the United States.

The U.S. Apple Association in Vienna, Va., voted unanimously at a March 12 board meeting to oppose the Okanagan Specialty Fruits application, said Nancy Foster, association president.

The association has been tracking the issue and has listened to presentations from Okanagan President Neal Carter in the past, Foster said.

It normally takes USDA one to three years for environmental review by the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service before it acts on applications, she said.

U.S. Apple’s action follows the Northwest Horticultural Council’s letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on Feb. 28 asking him to reject the application for non-regulated status of the two genetically engineered apples.

“While we do not think any human health issue exists with consumption of these GE apples, we do anticipate severe adverse marketing issues to confront both organic and traditional apple growers should they be allowed into the general marketplace,” Chris Schlect, hort council president, wrote in the letter.

The council, based in Yakima, Wash., represents tree fruit growers and packers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., Summerland, B.C., is seeking USDA and Food and Drug Administration approval of its Arctic Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples in which genes causing browning have been switched off.

The company believes non-browning apples would benefit the industry, particularly in sales of ready-to-eat apple slices.

Schlect said the industry is concerned that negative public perception of genetically engineered products could hurt apple sales.

“It’s purely an economic thing. The negatives outweigh the positives,” he said.

In his letter to Vilsack, Schlect said the council is not against all genetically engineered products and may support future petitions for them if benefits “clearly supersede potential marketing risks.”

In this case, he said, there are issues of product labeling, possible cross-contamination, potential export market barriers and general consumer concern.

Carter could not be reached for comment but has previously said his GE apples are more resistant to rot and infections and nutritionally better.

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