New biotech foods have direct consumer benefit

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.

8 Comments

  1. Rick says:

    I will not eat them. USDA has lost all credibility.

  2. Bob says:

    Ok, it shuts off the enzyme…how does that affect nutrition? If the enzyme is shut off does that mean the apple is less digestible?

  3. Matt says:

    It’s not the enzyme that’s the issue. It’s the fact that scientists are playing God with our food. GMO corn, GMO wheat (which is showing signs of causing illnesses), … and now GMO apples? When when these idiots learn to just leave food alone before it no longer becomes food!?

  4. Betsy says:

    So what if they turn brown??? They’re apples. I’m not going to buy GMO apples – ever!

  5. Koki says:

    “New Biotech Foods Have Direct Consumer Benefit” = “Consumers are now not even able to know when an apple has been damaged during transport or how long it has been on the shelf” therefore more profit for sellers
    I bet you that 90% of the bio-technologists only eat Organic Foods.

    If you stop the acting of enzymes in your body, what will happen? What will happen to the human when a normal biological process is being hindered? More Cancer, More health issues? What?

  6. Wayne says:

    It amazes me how people are so quick to attack GM crops. We’re worried about illnesses, cancer, nutrition of GM foods, but still use cell phones all day long, smoke cigarettes, heat foods in the microwave, fill our bodies with preservatives and processed foods, chemicals, saturated fats, caffeine, cholesterol, and countless other harmful things. Genetic modification is necessary to increase yields to meet the world’s growing population, increase disease-resistance to avoid harmful pesticides and herbicides, and to improve crops for growers and consumers. Playing god? Genetic modification is just a faster, more precise way of selecting and changing traits, under a microscope rather than the way traditional plant breeders have done it by hand for thousands of years. I look forward to enjoying these improved apples.

    • Matt says:

      Gee…How did life survive without having scientists in the US modifying foods? We used to be a society where the farmers grew food to eat, not for fuel; where growth hormones were never part of a dairy farmer’s routine for his animals; where the farmer had good years and bad years of crops, without the need for pesticides or crop insurance; where tomatoes and strawberries actually were so full of flavor and no chemical coating that you could eat them right from the garden, instead of having no flavor at all and the requirement to wash (and nearly disinfect) them.

      Cell phones, cigarettes, microwaves, caffeine, processed foods, etc. are all choices a person can make to have in their life (although some might disagree with some of those). Unlabeled GM foods are not a choice! Without knowing which {cough} foods are GMO and which are not, the government is taking that choice away from us.

      • Wayne says:

        Hmmm… how did life survive for thousands of years without scientists modifying foods? Oh, right… there weren’t 7 billion people on the planet to feed and provide energy for. And why should farmers grow crops for fuel… not like we’ve already stripped the earth of coal and continue to deplete it’s natural petroleum reserves more and more each day, cut down trees and take away much needed farm land to make way for industry and civilization… We certainly wouldn’t want science to interfere in helping to compensate for the terrible state humans have gotten this planet into.

        As far as hormones, antibiotics, etc… I agree. I buy hormone- and antibiotic-free milk and eggs whenever possible. But sadly, the society “we used to be” no longer exists. If farmers have A bad year, let alone SEVERAL consecutive bad years, where does that leave us? In a dire situation, for sure. The continued appearance and evolution of insects and plant disease NECESSITATES the use of pesticides, to ensure there IS a crop. Sure, it would be GREAT if we didn’t have to use these dangerous chemicals and could eat a strawberry right out of the garden… oh wait! We CAN! By genetically modifying crops to resist pathogens.

        Whether through traditional breeding or genetic modification, improvements can be made without sacrificing the other good qualities. Those terrible pink hydroponic tomatoes are a perfect example of a failure, in this respect. They may have bred those to be able to sustain rough harvesting processes, have a consistent shape and size, and last for weeks on the produce shelf, but by being too concerned with those features, qualities such as flavor and texture were really compromised. Who is to blame? Perhaps the breeders who didn’t focus on all the right things, or perhaps the sellers who required a product with specific characterisitics, knowing that many consumers would rather buy an inferior tomato than none at all…

        For what it’s worth, I agree that genetically modified products should be labeled. I don’t know how this thread turned toward attacking the government for taking choices away from us. If you don’t want to eat it, you shouldn’t have to. I used the examples of cell phones, cigarettes, microwaves, caffeine, processed foods, etc. to demonstrate a point. They are all things–although voluntary–the true long-term and absolute effects of which are not entirely known. I personally would rather “risk” eating a genetically modified apple than hold a radiation-emitting cell phone against my skull for 3 hours each day.

        My point is simply that many people who don’t even understand genetic modification, or who are too obsessed with the idea of scientists “playing god” (I can’t help but wonder if any of them have an artificial heart valve, ever received a vaccination, or taken an antibiotic–just 3 of many examples of developments by those darn god-playing scientists…), are too quick to attack it, without acknowledging its value. Cigarettes and tobacco were used for hundreds of years before ever being labeled with the Surgeon General’s warning. If a genetically modified food is ever determined to be unsafe, of course it will be removed from the market–or at least labeled as such–just like any other product. But the fact of the matter is that we don’t live in “the good old days” and can never go back to doing things the way they were done back then.

        Did you know that most of the 10 million children under the age of 5 who die each year are due to diseases that could be prevented through better nutrition? It is estimated that 25% of them could be saved by eating crops biofortified with vitamin A and zinc… such as GM “Golden Rice”. So sure, non-browning apples might be a bit less lofty in their humanitarian aspirations, but why not enjoy the improvement?

        GM is a SPECIFIC modification to a TARGETED gene, performed in a laboratory, but I wonder if people even realize that so much natural variation comes from random natural mutations that aren’t any different–such as how Yellow Delicious apples arose from a mutation of Red Delicious! And even though scientists are able to put genes from one species into another plant species, this also happens in nature due to bacteria, viruses, insects, and even parasitic plants. We understand and take advantage of flowering, pollination, hybridization… why is it so controversial to understand and take advantage of this mechanism as well?

        We are a world faced with issues that need to be addressed if we are to continue thriving as a civilization. Genetic modification is one way that improvements can be made to get the most out of a crop with the least amount of inputs, including dangerous chemicals. And even though the world implications may seem more significant, I believe we should be able to enjoy any benefit, whether it’s a more nutritious potato, a non-allergenic peanut, a thornless raspberry, or a non-browning apple.

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