WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has deregulated two apple varieties genetically engineered to resist browning.
These varieties, developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., will be marketed as the Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden.
The company has also volunteered to have the new apple varieties safety tested by the Food and Drug Administration.
Following its final plant pest risk assessment, APHIS found the apples are unlikely to pose a plant pest risk to agriculture and other plants in the United States.
APHIS also completed an environmental assessment, to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, that finds deregulation is not likely to have a significant impact on the human environment.
Under APHIS regulations, the department is required to evaluate if apple varieties are a plant pest risk to agricultural crops or other plants or plant products. A plant pest is defined as an organism, such as bacteria, fungi, or insects, that can cause harm to agricultural crops or other plants or plant products.
The Arctic apple varieties were developed through the use of biotechnology. Okanagan Specialty Fruits president and founder Neal Carter called the USDA announcement “monumental” for the small, grower-led company based in Canada.
Carter said the development of a non-browning apple included reducing the expression of a single enzyme, adding that there are no novel proteins in Arctic fruit and their nutrition and composition is equivalent to their conventional counterparts.
It will be some time, though, before Arctic apples find their way to store shelves. Since apple trees take several years to produce significant quantities of fruit, Carter estimates that Arctic apples will first be available in late 2016 in small, test-market quantities.
And, like many other new apple varieties, it may take years before non-browning Arctic fruit is widely distributed, Carter said.
He added, however, that Arctic apples, which have been grown in field trials for more than a decade, are “likely the most tested apples on the planet.”
For more information on Arctic fruit, visit www.arcticapples.com.
The APHIS assessment can be found at www.aphis.usda.gov/biotechnology/news.
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