The USDA has opened a second comment period on Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny apples, two nonbrowning varieties produced through biotechnology by Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF). The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is seeking public comments on their Environmental Assessment (EA) and Plant Pest Risk Assessment (PPRA).
The comments will be accepted through Dec. 9 on the USDA APHIS’s regulatory assessment of the two varieties. This is the second of two U.S. comment periods on these nonbrowning apples, the first of which was 60 days in length. OSF’s Arctic apples are among the first ag-biotech products to undergo this recently enhanced regulatory process, which did not previously include a second opportunity to comment.
The first comment period began when APHIS made OSF’s Petition for Determination of Nonregulated Status available July 13, 2012 in the Federal Register, and successfully concluded Sept. 11, 2012. According to a news release on Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc.’s website, USDA deregulation is expected in early 2014.
“We’re now closer than ever to bringing consumers and producers safe, value-added Arctic apples, providing greater convenience and reducing food waste,” said OSF president and founder Neal Carter, an orchardist in British Columbia’s Okagan Valley. “This is especially rewarding for our small company because of the long, challenging road toward deregulation. We have had Arctic apples planted in field trials for over a decade now,” explains Carter. “The regulatory process is extremely rigorous so consumers can feel secure knowing that Arctic apples are among the most tested fruits in existence.”
OSF is currently seeking U.S. partners to collaborate on the commercial development of Arctic apples.
Arctic Apples use gene silencing to suppress the apple’s expression of polyphenol oxidase (PPO), the enzyme involved in browning when the fruit is bruised, bitten, or cut. This virtually eliminates PPO production, so in turn the fruit doesn’t brown. Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny are just the first nonbrowning varieties; any apple variety can be transformed this way. Test orchards were planted in 2003 and 2005 in Washington state and New York state, two of the chief apple growing areas in the U.S.
Source: Okagan Specialty Fruits Inc. news release; USDA