A company that makes genetically engineered apples that are resistant to browning hopes its product will gain regulatory approval in Canada in the coming months.
Neal Carter, President of Okanagan Specialty Fruits, wants to see Health Canada and the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency (CFIA) approve his product – named Arctic apples – by April of this year. The apples recently gained regulatory approval in the United States.
"We want to begin planting in Canada by the spring of 2016," said Mr. Carter, "With 50 to 100 acres of Arctic apple trees planted by 2017."
But first Health Canada must deem the Arctic apple safe for consumers.
The apple "will be authorized once regulators are satisfied that all aspects of the safety assessment has been adequately addressed," said Andre Gagnon, a media relations officer with Health Canada.
The Arctic apple controls "enzymatic browning," where the enzyme that causes the brown discolouration is suppressed. When sliced, the flesh of the apple can stay white for up to three weeks.
"The food service industry is very interested in this product, said Mr. Carter, "It will allow them to use apples a lot more than they already do."
Okanagan Specialty Fruits will first market their Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties – renamed the 'Arctic Granny' and the 'Arctic Golden' – with other varieties added later.
However, some groups are concerned about the genetically engineered apple coming to Canada.
Teresa Lynne, a member of GE Free BC, a non-profit organization against the production and sale of genetically modified foods, has compiled a list of over 50 stores in B.C. that have pledged not to sell the product.
"Consumers don't want it," said Ms. Lynne. Further adding, "and there haven't been any long-term studies done on the apples."
Dr. Brian Ellis, a professor in the Faculty of Science at the University of British Columbia, said that other GM products that use similar technology to the Arctic apple are already on the market – products that have no associated health effects.
"Some people feel that they shouldn't trust this technology," said Dr. Ellis, but there has never been a validated scientific study finding GM foods to adversely affect human health, he added.
Okanagan Specialty Fruits is also working on a genetically engineered peach, which will be resistant to certain viruses, as well as a genetically engineered cherry, which will resist browning much like the Arctic apple does.
By making the apple more consumer friendly, Mr. Carter wants to do what the baby carrot did for the carrot industry in the 1980's, when carrot consumption nearly doubled due to the new innovation.
If Health Canada and the CFIA approve the apple, he hopes to see it used in more restaurants.
"Fifty per cent of the food we eat is prepared outside of the home," said Mr. Carter, "but the food service industry doesn't currently use apples because they go brown."