Canada: Nova Scotia Growers Say No to GMO Apples

Nova Scotia farmers are opposed to growing and selling genetically modified apples, as a farmer in British Columbia is proposing.

An apple grower in Summerland, B.C., has applied for approval of a genetically modified apple that doesn’t turn brown after it’s sliced.

The Arctic apple was designed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, an agricultural biotechnology company. Genetically modified from the golden delicious variety, it doesn’t oxidize because its developers have discovered how to neutralize the enzyme that causes browning.

The technology can be used on other varieties as well. Apple growers in the United States are also seeking approval of the product for the marketplace.

Company founder Neal Carter said the apple would be useful, especially for the fresh-cut, pre-sliced market.

The product would last longer on the shelf and allow growers to get more apples into the production system, he told CBC News.

But Nova Scotia growers fear that Canada’s first genetically modified apple could harm their marketing efforts and scare consumers away.

Pre-cut product – sliced apples that consumers buy in packages – makes up a tiny fraction of the overall market, said Robert Peill, president of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers‚ Association, which represents about 60 commercial growers.

“Consumers are wary and jittery about anything genetically modified,” Peill said in an interview Friday.

“Our industry is just not sure that the feature of non-browning is really worth the risk of putting the whole Canadian apple market in question.”

He fears consumers may not differentiate between the genetically modified product and other apples.

“There is confusion around GMO anything and we‚re afraid it could have consequences for our industry. Consumers may veer away from Canadian apples.

“Whether it’s science-based or not, it doesn‚t matter. Markets respond to perception,” said Peill, who has 30 hectares of orchards on his farm in Starrs Point, north of Wolfville.

He said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S., will review applications to introduce genetically modified apples on science and environmental data alone, and not on market issues.

“They don’t address the market side, which is what we‚re concerned about.  We don’t think it’s necessary to introduce that apple to the marketplace. The value is not there and the risk is too high.

“Our packers, who are the front-line market people, are saying that nothing good can come out of this.”

The Canadian Horticultural Council, a national association representing farmers, has taken a stand against genetically modified apples.

“We stand behind that,” Peill said.

The Nova Scotia apple crop makes up roughly 10 per cent of the Canadian market. The industry is worth about $14 million at the farm gate and $70 million to the provincial economy each year.

Gordon Delaney, The Chronicle Herald, March 12 2014


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