Dear Food Democracy Now! Supporters,
If you haven’t heard, apples are the single most popular fruit served in school lunchrooms across the U.S. and a fruit so iconic it was the fruit that inspired Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity and the heartbeat of the phrase, "as American as apple pie"!
Tragically, a Canadian firm has created a new GMO apple, using a new “gene silencing” technique that could interfere with the expression of genes in humans, even silencing vital human genes, potentially causing serious health problems.
Right now, the Obama administration is considering the approval of the world’s first genetically engineered apple, known as the ArcticApple®, which has been engineered to silence the natural browning enzyme that may help apples fight disease and pests.
Currently, the Canadian firm, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, is hoping its GMO apple, will be approved for Golden Delicious and Granny Smith varieties, despite the fact that it faces stiff opposition from consumers, apple growers and some of the nation’s leading apple growing associations. Legitimate concerns center on the utterly worthless cosmetic genetic alteration to the GMO apple and the untested new genetic engineering technique used to create the apple.
On top of this, apple growers fear the real likelihood that approving an unlabeled GMO apple will be the Kiss of Death for foreign exports and consumer rejection in the U.S., and that organic and conventional apple orchards will face genetic contamination from Okanagan’s GMO Arctic apple pollen, which will be difficult, if not impossible to control.
Will the GMO Apple be Kiss of Death for Natural, Organic Apples?
Apple growers in Canada are so concerned about consumer rejection and genetic contamination they’re calling for a moratorium.
Last month the B.C. Fruit Growers association call for the Canadian government this issue “an immediate moratorium” on Okanagan’s GMO ArcticApple® and it would be prudent if the USDA would heed these farmers' call.
“There is potential market damage caused to apple markets if this GM apple is approved. Indeed, it seems the damage is occurring even while the apple is in the regulatory process and a decision on its approval is still pending,” said Jeet Dukhia, BCFGA president and a Vernon grower.
“The public thinks of apples as a pure, natural, healthy and nutritional fruit. GM apples are a risk to our market image.”
Even the apple industry across the U.S. opposes the GMO apple, with the U.S. Apple Association, the Washington State Horticultural Association, the Washington Apple Commission and the Northwest Horticultural Council all weighing in against its approval.
Unlabeled and unregulated…
If approved, this new GMO apple will appear on shelves as early as the end of 2014 and will be unlabeled and unregulated, since the agency responsible for its approval, the USDA, is not required to look into the health impacts of this new technology, but rather the possibility that the new genetically engineered fruit simply poses a “plant pest risk” for other crops.
According to Chemical & Engineering News, “no [genetically engineered] crop has ever been denied deregulation”, but we need your help today to let the Obama administration know that you won’t accept GMO apples on the market.
Alarmingly, Okanagan Specialty Fruits is also working on getting GMO cherries, peaches and pears onto the market if the USDA approves their new GMO apples.
Even worse than the silly cosmetic artificial genetic alteration of the GMO apple, is the new genetic engineering technique, known as RNA interference (RNAi), which has undergone no rigorous safety assessments and rightfully has scientists concerned about serious unpredictable environmental and human health food safety risks. Recent scientific studies have shown that double stranded RNA (dsRNA) used in RNA can remain intact through the digestive process, enter the bloodstream and cells and effect gene expression in ways that have not been thoroughly investigated.
While the current fleet of approved GMO crops on the market have been created through in vitro DNA engineering, with most designed to create a new novel protein that expresses a desired trait (such as herbicide tolerance or insect resistance), a growing number of newly engineered crops, including the GMO ArcticApple®, are engineered to change their RNA content in order to regulate gene expression. In this process, RNAi manipulation turns off certain genes. In the GMO apple, the technique turns off/silences the gene responsible for creating the browning response known as oxidation when apples are left exposed to the air once their skin is broken.
An international team of scientists have already raised the alarm on health concerns, citing the relatively new and so-far untested dsRNA technology used to silence the gene that causes the apple to brown could have negative impacts on human health.
In a recent evaluation in Environment International, Dr. Jack Heinemann and Dr. Judy Carman found that the genes genetically engineered to be silenced in plants (dsRNA) could enter the human bloodstream and impact the cellular expression of consumers. At a minimum, these internationally respected scientists recommend that further research be conducted on the safety of all GMO crops using this new and untested gene silencing technique before products like the GMO apple are allowed to reach the market.
Thanks for participating in food democracy,
Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! team
1. “Genetically modified apples raise concerns”, Yakima Herald, February 10, 2013
2. “New GMO Wheat May "Silence" Vital Human Genes”, GMWatch, April 8, 2013
3. “Growers Fret Over Apple that Won’t Turn Brown”, New York Times, July 12, 2013
4. “Will You Ever Get A Genetically Modified Apple In Your McDonald's Happy Meal?”, Fast Company, November 18, 2013, http://action.
5. “GMO Apple Letter to McDonald’s”, Green Business Network, Friends of the Earth, October 15, 2013,
6. “Genetically modified apple draws Okanagan opposition”, Vernon Morning Star, November 15, 2013
7. Zhang et al. (2012) “Exogenous plant MIR168a specifically targets mammalian LDLRAP1: evidence of cross-kingdom regulation by microRNA”, Cell Research, 22:107-26. http://action.
8. Heinemann, Jack. A., et al (2013, May). “A comparative evaluation of the regulation of GM crops or products containing dsRNA and suggested improvements to risk assessments”, Environment International. Vol 55: 43-45.http://action.
9. “Engineered Apples Near Approval: Fruit with nonbrowning genes may get green light in U.S.”, Chemical & Engineering News, April 10, 2013,