Genetically Engineered Plants
It started with the GMO Arctic® Apple. Now, Intrexon, a leader in the next generation of GMOs, is pushing for the release of another variety of GMO apple. Both are engineered to suppress the production of an enzyme that causes browning when sliced or bruised. But browning in apples can be prevented naturally by applying lemon juice or another source of vitamin C. Why take unnecessary risks for a purely cosmetic trait?
Apple growers and consumers alike have rejected GMO apples. The U.S. Apple Association states that genetically engineering could undermine the apple’s image as a healthy and natural food, one that “keeps the doctor away and is as American as, well, apple pie.” Apple farmers are justifiably worried since GMO apples could cause valuable export markets to reject U.S. apples, as has happened with other GMO crops. More than a third of U.S. farmers’ apple revenue comes from exports. The Northwest Horticultural Council also voiced their disapproval. The Council represents Washington apple growers who grow more than 60 percent of all apples and more than 80 percent of organic apples in the U.S.
What We’ve Done
Even though the first GMO apple was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in February 2015, we can still keep it off our plates by getting major food companies to keep it off the market. McDonald’s, Gerber and Wendy’s state that they have no plans to sell genetically engineered apples. But other companies are dragging their feet. We need grocery retailers, restaurants and others to commit to not sell GMO apples.
Top food service company Aramark just announced its commitment not to sell genetically engineered (GE) salmon. The producer of the salmon, AquaBounty Technologies, announced plans to sell its first-ever harvest in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2021.
It’s critical that organic standards treat new types of genetic engineering that are rapidly entering our food and consumer products as rigorously as the first generation of GMOs.
In the wake of widespread criticism of the USDA’s recent approval of the first genetically engineered apple, the Food and Drug Administration recently deemed the Arctic® apple, owned by synthetic biology company Intrexon (NYSE: XON), safe for consumption, relying only on company data through a voluntary safety consultation.