September 1, 2015
Canada approves GM apple
Press Release - March 23, 2015: CBAN denounces federal decision to approve GM apple: GM apple approved over the objections of consumers and farmers
The company called Okanagan Specialty Fruits (recently acquired by Intrexon) has just received Canadian and US approval for its genetically modified (GM) “non-browning” apple - it does not brown when you slice it, for 15 days or more. The company says the GM apples "have more eye appeal: no yucky browning". but 69% of Canadians don't want it approved. Many groups representing fruit growers in Canada are also opposed. Consumer rejection and possible contamination from GM apples threatens the future of our apples, and the farmers who grow them. The first GM apples could be in grocery stores in late 2016.
Write to the head office of your grocery chain store
- Ask your store chain to commit to keep GM apples out of the produce section.
Click here for grocery store emails.
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- Order your GM apple info postcards today! Contact us.
- Talking Points: Talking to your grocery store about the GM apple
- Flyer on the GM Apple
What's wrong with the GM apple?
- The GM apple is unnecessary. There are already safe techniques that industry and consumers use to slow browning after apples are cut (the industry uses ascorbic acid and the public uses lemon juice).
- Consumers don’t want to eat the GM apple. 69% of Canadians don't want the GM apple approved (according to a 2012 survey conducted for the BC Fruit Growers' Association and the Quebec Apple Producers' Association).
- The GM apple threatens the market for all apples. The BC Fruit Growers' Association is asking for a moratorium on approval of the GM apple.
- Possible GM contamination is a risk for apple producers. Organic growers are particularly concerned about contamination from GM apples because GM is prohibited in organic farming.
- Our government is reviewing the safety of the GM apple in secret, based on company data. The government does not consult with farmers and consumers, and does not consider economic or social concerns before it approves a new GM crop.
The genetically modified (GM) "non-browning" apple has been approved in the US. It is not yet approved in Canada. Press Release - February 13, 2015: Canadian Groups Demand Market Stay Closed to GM Apple, as US Government Approves Genetically Modified “Non-Browning” Apple.
February 27, 2015: US company Intrexon has just bought the Canadian company Okanagan Specialty Fruits which developed the genetically modified (GM, also called genetically engineered) “non-browning” apple. Intrexon is a synthetic biology company which says it is “committed to building ‘A Better World Through Better DNA’”. Intrexon bought the company AquaBounty in 2012 such that it also owns the GM salmon developed by that company. Intrexon also owns two European patents (EP 1456346 and EP 1572862) on chimpanzees genetically engineered with DNA from insects, for pharmaceutical research purposes.
The GM “non-browning” apple is genetically modified to keep from going brown after being cut. The technology was developed in Australia and licensed by the small BC company called Okanagan Specialty Fruits. The company wants approval to use of the GM trait in Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples but they say they want to also engineer Gala and Fuji apples.
- 69% of Canadians oppose the GM apple! See the consumer survey commissioned by the BC Fruit Growers Association and the Quebec Apple Producers Association, July 3, 2012.
- Press Release, August 14, 2012: GM Apple Jeopardizes Okanagan’s Reputation, say local groups
- Letter from Okanagan groups to Okanagan Specialty Fruits
How is the apple engineered?
The company has silenced a gene in the apple that controls browning by inserting modified apple DNA as well as genetic material from at least three different species:
- A regulatory gene switch from a plant virus (Cauliflower Mosaic virus promoter: CaMV 35S);
- A terminator sequence from a bacterium (Agrobacterium tumefaciens taken from its Nopaline synthase gene: nos);
- An antibiotic resistance marker gene from a bacterium (Streptomyces kanamyceticus), here the nptII gene (which confers resistance to the antibiotic kanamycin).
What are apple growers saying?
The BC Fruit Growers' Association had asked for a moratorium on the GM apple.
In 2001, BC apple growers stopped the GM apple from being field tested in Canada. The federal government agricultural station in Summerland in the Okanagan valley, an important fruit growing area, was preparing to start field trials but BC growers who were concerned about contamination stopped these field trials from happening. As a consequence, the company has tested all their apple trees in the U.S.
In September 2011, CBAN and organizations from across BC organized a series of public events to discuss genetic engineering. At an event in Keremeos, Lee McFadyen of Mariposa Organic Farm and the Live Earth Organic Growers Association pointed out that there are already several varieties of apple that are slow to brown. On the GM apple, orchardist Andrea Turner of the Similkameen Okanagan Organic Producers Association said, “The tree fruit industry cannot afford anything silly like that”. Read the concerns of the Similkameen Okanagan Organic Treefruit Growers Association, BC.
Press Release - May 26, 2014 - BC government refuses to carry out its promised review of the genetically engineered apple This week Nicholas Simons, BC NDP agriculture critic, will present over 7,000 signatures gathered by the Society for a GE Free BC in 20 communities, calling for a moratorium on the GE apple. Simons also introduced two questions to the BC Legislature on May 12th asking for the review of the GE apple the government promised, with no response as yet.
Press Release - May 12, 2014: GM Apple a "No Sale" for BC Grocers Grocers in BC say they will not sell the GM apple if it is approved for sale in Canada. Twenty retailers in the province have signed a no-GM apple commitment. The BC Fruit Growers Association does not support the GM apple, and over 69% of polled Canadians do not want it.
Press Release - November 12, 2013: GM Apple Closer to Regulatory Approval, Further from Consumer Acceptance
Update, November 7, 2013: McDonald's and Gerber say no to GM apple
- July 27, 2012 - CBAN Letter to the Editor: GM Apple Not Simple, Published in the Western Producer
- Taking the bite out of GM apples, by Lucy Sharratt, Common Ground magazine, July 2012
- Apple Cravings, Harry Burton, Canadian Organic Growers, June 2012.
- The CFIA "public comment" period is over. Read CBAN's comments on the GM apple to the CFIA here. (Related: July 9, 2012 - Press Release: GM Apple Closer to U.S. Approval: Farce of Canadian public consultation exposed and Letter to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency from CBAN, Public Process Lacking on Genetically Engineered Foods: Request to halt regulatory evaluation of GE "non-browning" apple July 9, 2012.