July 9, 2012. Ottawa – Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture posted over 160 pages of data from Okanagan Specialty Fruits pertaining to their request for approval of a genetically engineered (genetically modified or GM) “non-browning” apple.(1) The U.S. public now has 60 days to comment before a final decision is made by U.S. regulators.
This public comment period in the U.S. comes just six days after the closing of a public comment period in Canada, July 3, 2012. However, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s comment process was based on two pages of bullet points describing the data submitted by the company – the data itself was not provided.
“The CFIA should be deeply embarrassed for wasting Canadian’s time on a false invitation to comment on the GM apple,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. “The CFIA public comment period was always a sham because it was based on no data but this farce is now completely exposed.”
“It was simply an insult to ask Canadians to guess what data was submitted by the company,” said Sharratt, “Its high time Canadians had some democracy on this question of genetically modified foods.” CBAN has sent a letter to the CFIA expressing frustration about the lack of transparency and asking for an immediate halt to review of the GM apple.(2)
The U.S. announcement comes just days after a consumer poll commissioned by BC and Quebec apple grower associations found that 69% of Canadians do not want the GM apple.(3)
“This GM apple is a useless waste of time from start to finish,” said Wendy Wright of the Okanagan Greens Society, “The only conclusion is to stop this GM apple right away before our markets are damaged.”
Before reaching a final decision on the GM apple the U.S. government will also prepare an environmental assessment document for public comment, though similar assessments of other GM crops have been challenged in U.S. courts as inadequate. The timeline for a decision in Canada is unknown.
For more information: Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 613 241 2267 ext. 25; Wendy Wright, Okanagan Greens Society, (cell) 250 469 1881.
NOTES: (1) The data released on the GE apple by the U.S government can be seen at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/aphisdocs/10_16101p.pdf
(2) This letter from CBAN to the CFIA can be viewed at http://www.cban.ca/content/view/full/1302
(3) The BC Fruit Growers Association and the Quebec Apple Producers Association released the Leger poll on July 3, 2012. The poll can be found at http://www.bcfga.com/files/file/Report%20on%20GE%20survey%20-%20July%203%202012.pdf