The U.S. government is now seeking the public’s input on Arctic® Golden and Arctic® Granny apples, two nonbrowning varieties that have been produced through biotechnology by Canada’s Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF).
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) has opened its review for public comment, which allows U.S. citizens to submit their input on Arctic Apples for APHIS’ review.
OSF’s Arctic Apples are among the first biotechnology plants/plant foods to undergo a recently-enhanced U.S. agency review process that now includes two opportunities for public input (summarized here). APHIS announced the opening of the first 60-day public comment period regarding the petition for Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden apples and 11 other biotechnology products in the July 13, 2012 edition of the Federal Register. This first comment period will close on Sept. 11, 2012.
“We are delighted to reach this important milestone in the U.S., and to be one of the first to participate in the expanded APHIS review processes,” said OSF founder and President Neal Carter, who grows apples and cherries. “We’re confident these public comment opportunities will reassure consumers and producers alike that Arctic Apples address browning in an innocuous way, so that we can move on to the work of getting more people eating more apples.”
The second U.S. comment period is expected to open approximately six months following the closure of the first comment period. If no substantive issues have been raised, the public will have 30 days to review APHIS’ assessments of Arctic Apples’ Pest Risk Assessment (PPRA), Environmental Assessment (EA), and a preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). After reviewing received comments, if no further substantive issues have been raised APHIS’ FONSI decision is published as final, thereby determining nonregulated status.
“We have approximately 10 years of real-world field trial experience demonstrating that our Arctic trees behave no differently from conventional trees, and that Arctic Apples are compositionally and nutritionally similar to conventional apples,” said Carter. “It’s not until an Arctic Apple is bruised, bitten, or cut and doesn’t brown that the Arctic difference becomes very clear.”
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.
OSF submitted its petition for nonregulated status to APHIS in May 2010; APHIS notified the company its petition was complete in February of this year. “When there’s no ‘yuck’ factor, more apples get eaten, fewer get thrown away, and more of a family’s hard-earned money stays in their pockets,” said Carter. “Increasing apple consumption is a goal everyone can support.”
OSF is currently seeking U.S. partners to commercialize Arctic Apples, including growers and processors.
For more information, go to www.arcticapples.com.