WASHINGTON — Modern agricultural biotechnology is fulfilling its promise to provide food products that directly benefit consumers. An apple has been genetically engineered to be exactly like a conventional apple in every way, except that it is resistant to browning when cut, bruised or bitten.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced in the July 13 Federal Register that it is now accepting comments on Okanagan Specialty Fruits Arctic® Apples.
This first comment period will close on September 11, 2012. OSF’s Arctic® Apples will undergo a recently-enhanced U.S. agency review process that now includes two opportunities for public input. The second public comment period will begin when USDA publishes its preliminary decision.
Currently, approximately 90 percent of the corn, soybeans and sugar beets grown in the United States are biotech varieties, but these products are engineered to be pest resistant and herbicide tolerant, providing direct benefits to farmers and indirect benefits to consumers.
In fact, 16.7 million farmers in 29 countries are using seed varieties improved through genetic engineering and biotechnology because of the environmental and economic benefits they provide. Dr. Enright says this is just the beginning of an era when consumers will enjoy the benefits that biotechnology-derived food can provide.
Soybeans with improved fatty acid profiles — such as omega-3 and high oleic acid — that provide a more heart-healthy source of oil, are even further along the development pipeline.
Foods can also be improved through biotechnology to contain increased nutritional value such as vitamin A and iron, and increased amounts of natural cancer-fighting properties.
Arctic Apples use gene silencing to suppress the apple’s expression of polyphenol oxidase, the enzyme involved in browning when the fruit is bruised, bitten or cut. The decreased PPO production results in an apple that won’t brown due to oxidation.
The Arctic Apples currently under consideration are Golden and Granny varieties, but OSF says any apple variety can be improved this way. OSF says the aim of this technology was to enhance the appearance of apples so more apples get eaten, fewer get thrown away, and more of a family’s hard-earned money stays in their pockets. OFS believes increasing apple consumption is a goal everyone can support.