“The Canadian market needs to remain closed to this GM apple,” said Lucy Sharratt of CBAN. “Health Canada should not approve this apple. Consumers and farmers simply don’t want it on the market.”
The small BC company, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, owns the GM apple which is genetically modified (also called genetically engineered) to not turn brown after being cut, for 15-18 days according to the company. If approved by Canadian regulators, this would be the second GM fruit on the market anywhere in the world, after a US-grown papaya, and it would be the first GM fruit grown in Canada.
The US Department of Agriculture has approved the GM apple for growing and sale in the US, and the US Food and Drug Administration is now engaging in a voluntary food safety assessment consultation with the company.
A 2012 survey commissioned by the BC Fruit Growers' Association and the Federation of Quebec Apple Growers showed that 69% of Canadians don't want it approved. Just last year, a petition asking the BC government for a moratorium on the GM apple was submitted with over 7,000 signatures, gathered by the Society for a GE Free BC in 20 communities.
“This apple is an outrage,” said Teresa Lynne of the Society for a GE Free BC, “We don’t need it and we don’t want it.”
The company says that GM apples in grocery stores would be labeled with the company's trademark, but they will not be clearly labeled as genetically modified. The company promises a similar label on any food products that have ingredients from the GM apple but it’s not clear how this would be implemented or enforced.
“We would never sell this GM apple in our stores. Our customers don’t want it and I don’t see a benefit for the apple industry,” said Robert Horricks, BC orchardist and CEO of Blush Lane Organic Markets, Alberta.
Over 77 stores as well as two food distributors in BC, and some across the country, have already pledged not to sell the GM apple. Major food companies including McDonald’s and Gerber have already stated that they have no plans to source or sell this genetically modified apple.
“All Canadian retailers and food manufacturers should urgently reassure their customers that they will never sell or use this GM apple,” said Sharratt.
The BC Fruit Growers Association has already asked the Canadian government to halt approval of the GM apple because of market rejection concerns.
Organic apple growers in BC have long opposed the GM apple because of contamination concerns.