Canadian farmers reject GM apples

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 by: Julie Wilson
Tags: Canadian farmers, Arctic Apples, GMOs

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(NaturalNews) Opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and demand for cleaner, healthier food is escalating around the globe, and Canada is no exception. Apple farmers in Nova Scotia, Canada, are concerned about a new kind of genetically modified apple being introduced in the nation's food supply, as reported by The Chronicle Herald. Controversy over the new GM apples arose after another apple grower located in Summerland, B.C., applied for a permit to harvest and sell the mutant fruit.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits, an agricultural biotech company, developed the Frankenstein fruit, which suppliers call "Arctic Apples." According to the Herald, researchers were able to "neutralize the enzyme that causes browning."

Neal Carter, the founder of Okanagan Specialty Fruits, anticipates Arctic Apples to be particularly successful in the "fresh-cut, pre-sliced market," but growers in Nova Scotia disagree. Farmers opposing Arctic Apples argue that the release could irreversibly damage the market by scaring away consumers dissuaded by genetically engineered foods.

Robert Peill, president of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers' Association, explained that the "fresh-cut" market is a very small one, raking in a tiny percentage of profit compared to the overall market.

"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," said Peill.

Debunking the biotech lies

Not only are farmers aware of consumer controversy surrounding GMOs, but so too are the suppliers. Okanagan Specialty Fruits maintains a section on their website titled "Biotechnology deserves a fair chance." Under it, they advocate for more research but at the same time fraudulently claim that there's no scientific evidence to support risks associated with biotechnology and that it's any more dangerous than traditional methods of breeding and selection.

This last statement is simply not true and is an outright lie.

Traditional breeding methods and the biotechnological processes used to develop GMOs are anything but similar. For a species to be traditionally cross-pollinated, they have to be of similar origin and/or related, but with genetic engineering, any gene from any species can be extracted and spliced into a separate organism, or crop. So your yummy corn-on-the-cob could contain lizard genes.

During the genetic engineering process, scientists can use anywhere from 5 to 15 different gene sources to create a "gene construct."

Okanagan Specialty Fruit isn't stopping with the Arctic Apple. They're also in the process of producing genetically engineered peaches, cherries and pears.

Controlling and altering the DNA traits of peaches was previously proven to be a task elusive to biotech companies, until now. Harvesting peaches is a complicated and complex process, as they are often plagued by diseases, don't prosper in the cold and have a very short life span. Also, throughout the past, the process by which peaches ripen has not been successfully influenced by man, so they are required to be picked independently according to ripeness, as opposed to harvesting an entire tree at once like apples and pears.

Although the process is tedious, the taste of a sweet, juicy, perfectly ripened peach makes it all worthwhile.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits wants to put an end to all that through their peach transformation process, which involves new gene splicing techniques resulting in "unique" peach varieties, ultimately leading to the capability of controlling peach "mealiness and browning."

GMO crops in Canada

Since 1994 Canada has approved more than 81 genetically modified organisms:
  • canola
  • corn
  • lentils
  • wheat
  • rice
  • potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • squash
  • soybeans
Ironically, these crops were approved under agencies responsible for the safety and health of the public.

Under the Food and Drugs Act, Health Canada is responsible for implementing policies and standards related to public health, safety and nutrition. The Canadian Food Inspecting Agency (CIFA) is supposed to be the watchdog for food labeling policies as well as fraud and misrepresentation by food companies; however, they've ignored public concern and pleas to require products containing GMOs to be labeled.

Discussions regarding GMO fruit are expected to remain prevalent, as the apple industry alone in Canada rakes in $70 million annually, making up 10 percent of the market.

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