BC biotech company seeks approval for GM apple in Canada

By Colleen Kimmett

A Summerland-based biotechnology company is seeking Canadian approval for a genetically modified non-browning apple.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. spent more than a decade developing the ‘Arctic’ apple, according to its website, and first petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to bring the variety to U.S. markets in 2010.

That request, which is still pending, was the first the agency had ever received for a genetically modified apple. Company president Neal Carter told industry newspaper The Packer that he expects a decision from the USDA to come within the year.

The company filed for approvals from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada in April to release the apple here for “commercial planting purposes, livestock feed and food use.” The agencies will receive public comments on the petition for approval through mid-June.

Summerland orchardist Joe Sardinha told the Province newspaper he was anxious about how consumers would perceive the product.

“From my standpoint as a producer, I’m concerned that, with genetic modification, consumers could easily feel that their pristine apple suddenly has a component that they’re not confident in,” he said. “Whether it’s apples, pears or peaches, genetic modification threatens the industry and threatens organic growers as well.”