A B.C. company is hoping to get its non-browning, genetically modified apples approved in Canada in the coming months.
Okanagan Specialty Fruits produces the "Arctic apple," which controls "enzymatic browning" and suppresses discolouration. The apple can stay white for up to three weeks after being sliced. The head of the Summerland, B.C. company, Neal Carter, told The Globe and Mail last week that he wants to see the apple approved by industry regulators by April of this year, with hopes to begin planting by the spring of 2016. The GMO fruit was approved for commercial planting in the U.S. earlier this month.
In Whistler, Angela Perzow, owner of Olives Community Market, joined 19 other B.C. grocers last spring in refusing to purchase or sell the Arctic apple. Now there are over 50 stores across the province that have pledged not to sell the product.
"I don't even consider the option to buy non-organic vegetables and fruit, so this wasn't an issue for me," Perzow said in May.
If approved, Okanagan Specialty Fruits will roll out their Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties first, with others added in the future. The company is also working on a genetically engineered peach and cherry.
Now, the decision rests with Health Canada and the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency on whether the apple will be safe for consumers.
There have been concerns raised over the potential health effects associated with eating the apple, with non-profit GE Free BC saying there hasn't been any long-term studies into the product, although Carter has contended that, with the fruit being part of field tests in Washington and New York for a decade, the Arctic apple is likely the most tested on the planet.
Similar products already exist on the market both in Canada and the U.S — potatoes with a similar genetic modification were recently approved stateside by The Agriculture Department — and Canadian federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose recently said there is no scientific evidence to support that genetically modified foods are unhealthy.
The BC Fruit Growers' Association has come out officially against the Arctic apple as well, concerned that contamination from the modified fruit would cripple B.C.'s apple export market.
Others, like Burnaby-based non-profit Health Action Network Society, have raised fears that the apples won't be labelled in stores as being genetically modified. In Canada, GMO labelling on products isn't mandatory.
Sixty-nine per cent of Canadians polled in a 2012 survey opposed genetically modified apples.