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article imageOp-Ed: USDA overrides public opinion and approves GMO apple for sale

By Karen Graham     Feb 14, 2015 in Food
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) gave their approval to Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ genetically engineered Arctic Apples, despite the agency's environmental review receiving over 73,000 comments voicing opposition to the fruit.
What is scary about this decision is that it marks the first time an aesthetically improved and genetically engineered food will be allowed to reach the produce aisle of major food stores and other markets. The decision opens the door to other GMO products that consumers may not even realize they are buying.
Technically, the USDA is allowing the Arctic Apple to be planted and sold without specific oversight. This is contingent on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) engaging the grower, Okanagan, in a voluntary safety consultation process prior to the GMO apple being placed on the U.S. market. According to Okanagan, the Arctic apples will be not be sold with labels saying they are genetically engineered apples.
The GMO Arctic Apple has been genetically engineered using an as yet untested experimental process called RNA interference or RNAi. Many scientists have real concerns about the possible negative impacts this process could have on human health and the environment. In the Arctic Apple, RNAi was used to silence the genes related to enzyme production that cause apple slices to brown when exposed to air.
Major food companies, including McDonald's and Gerber have already stated they will not source or sell the genetically engineered apples. They have joined with major apple growing associations, including USApple and the Northwest Horticultural Council in stating their opposition to the apple. The Northwest Horticultural represents the Washington state apple growers who grow more than 60 percent of the apples sold in the U.S.
Arctic Grant and Arctic Golden were developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits of Summerland, British Columbia. "The commercial approval of Arctic apples, our company’s flagship product, is the biggest milestone yet for us, and we can’t wait until they’re available for consumers,” Neal Carter, president and founder of Okanagan Specialty Fruits, said in a statement Friday after receiving word of the USDA's approval. Despite the outrage and opposition to GMO foods, the company says it plans to introduce genetically engineered cherries, peaches, and pears.
Bottom line is that this apple is just not necessary. The browning of apple slices has been dealt with successfully by consumers and industry for generations, and even more thought-provoking is the knowledge that mothers giving their children sliced apples for snack time won't know if the apples they are using have been genetically engineered. More to the point is why 73,000 people bothered to write in to the USDA voicing their opposition to these apples when their opinions obviously fell on deaf ears.
It would seem that the federal government has wasted a considerable amount of public money and time on an agency that doesn't bother listening to scientists, the industry, environmentalists or the consumer. Why bother with asking for an environmental impact review? It is ridiculous and offensive to anyone with one iota of intelligence.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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