How Do You Like Them Non-Browning Apples, and Potatoes Too?

We don't, say the bioluddites over at Friends of the Earth and Consumers Union


Arctic Apple

Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples that have been genetically improved by Okanagan Specialty Fruits such that they do not brown when they are cut. Also last week, the agency gave the nod to six varieties of potatoes genetically enhanced by the J.R. Simplot Company to resist black spot bruises and to produce less acrylamide when they are fried. In both cases, researchers used RNAi technology to silence genes that produce substances that cause browning. 

FDA's press release stated:

Foods derived from genetically engineered plants must meet the same legal standards, including safety standards, as foods derived from traditional plant breeding methods. To help developers of foods derived from genetically engineered plants comply with their obligations under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and FDA regulations, the FDA encourages them to participate in a voluntary consultation process with the agency prior to commercial distribution.

As part of its consultation process, both Okanagan, of British Columbia, Canada, and Simplot, of Boise, Idaho, submitted to the FDA a summary of their safety and nutritional assessments.

The consultation process includes a review of information provided by a company about the nature of the molecular changes and the nutritional composition of the food compared to traditionally bred varieties," said Dennis Keefe, Ph.D., director of the FDA's Office of Food Additive Safety. "This case-by-case safety evaluation ensures that food safety issues are resolved prior to commercial distribution."

Naturally, the usual members of the bioluddite claque such as Friends of the Earth and the Consumers Union oppose both products and are urging restaurants, food processors, and consumers to boycott them. FOE claims that both MacDonald'a and Gerber have already agreed not to take the apples.

I asked Okanagan if I could buy some apples to taste-test earlier this year, but was told that the company had sold out. The apples will be available in the fall, so I'll let you know then.

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  1. I can’t wait to see the panic from my gardening friends…. MUH NATRALL FUUDS!!!1!!1! FRANKENAPPLES!!!!!

    Nevermind the fact that it is literally impossible to buy GMO seeds unless you’re a commercial farmer.

    1. But apples are propagated by cloning, not by seeds. Yet I expect you won’t be able to get modified scions unless you are a commercial grower. So we’ll give you partial credit on that answer.

      1. This is true as well. My apple trees in my backyard are spliced and grafted… certainly not grown from seed (although, is the rootstock grown from seed? I know it’s not generally a fruiting species, but I guess it could plausibly be a GMO seed for the rootstock, assuming that people gave a shit about genetically modifying the rootstock for some reason).

        However, good luck explaining it to the panicked soccer mom who is afraid of buying GMO squash seeds from the local seed supply store. I’m in a local vegetable gardeners group on facebook, and it’s literally a daily question. Just replace the seed type and the supply store, and the posts are 100% the same.

        “What should I look for when buying _____ seeds at ______ store? I don’t want to buy GMO seeds.”


          Apple trees with desirable characteristics, such as a particularly tasty fruit, are often grafted onto hardy, disease-resistant rootstock from another variety to produce an overall sturdy and highly productive tree. The rootstocks themselves are propagated by cloning techniques to preserve these desirable characteristics. Not all rootstocks are easily propagated by the same method, so at least four methods of propagating rootstock are used.

          In the old days, desirable trees were grafted onto seedling which produced wildly different results from mature tree to mature tree. Now all the good rootstocks are cloned.

          1. Interesting! It makes sense that they would propagate via cloning for the rootstock as well, but I wasn’t sure it was possible. It looks like it’s not as easy, but they’ve figured it out.

            1. That’s why you can buy specific rootstocks (like G11) the same way you can trees (like Honeycrisp).

      2. I find the way apples work to be fascinating. I think grapes are the same sort of thing.

        I wonder if it would be practical to genetically engineer an apple that you can grow from seed. Seems like that would be useful.

  2. Apples that don’t turn brown? Racist.

    1. Came here for this


  3. You’re raping and killing mother Gaia with those evil fake foods. How? Don’t worry about it, the science is settled!

  4. More faster please.

  5. We don’t say the bioluddites over at Friends of the Earth and Consumers Union

    Use some fucking punctuation.

    1. Your HTMLese ain’t so hot, bub.

      How do you like THEM apples?

      1. +1 phone number shown through window

    2. Thanks for the comma, Ron!

  6. You know, I would totally be down for a completely ridiculous, Sam Raimi/Peter Jackson style gorefest where GMO foods turn people into some kind of weird zombie that is easily chewed up by lawnmowers or brought down by boomsticks purchased at S-Mart. Someone should really get on that.

    Walking Dead doesn’t count.

    1. All joking aside, I’m still trying to get a grip on exactly what anti-GMO people say is the problem.

      1. It’s…uh…they’re…um…bad? I don’t really have much more than that.

        1. I don’t know if you caught this on an earlier post Epi:

          It’s a t-shirt that reminded me of a few of us in the H&R comments.

          I think the sub-text applies to several Alignments (CN springs to mind, LE, NE particularly, and in certain circumstances a couple more).

      2. They’re not natural.

        1. Don’t tell sarcasmic.

      3. Industrial civilization itself.

      4. I’m still trying to get a grip on exactly what anti-GMO people say is the problem.

        1) They’re killing the bees, despite needing less or no pesticides.
        2) They’re causing cancer, despite the fact that each individual genetic modification would have to be tested separately, and none have actually shown carcinogenic properties.
        3) They’re frankenfoods, which is bad, because… well… as far as I can tell, they’re all Amish, and technology is bad.
        4) They’re Monsanto, and Monsanto is evil because… well… haven’t you seen Food, Inc? Duh!

        10 reasons to avoid GMOs that aren’t really reasons to avoid GMOs, or are flat out lies. For example,
        1) GMOs are unhealthy (never been proven by any reputable study)
        2) GMOs cross-pollinate (like every plant ever)
        3) GMOs increase herbicide use (even if true, it completely ignores the massive reduction in pesticide use)
        4) Genetic Modification can create side effects MMMKAY!
        5) Not enough Gubmint Oversight!!!!!
        6) Monsanto!!!!!
        7) Our studies get suppressed!!!!
        8) GMOs magically pollute the water somehow
        9) GMOs starve hungry people somehow
        10) You get to boycott something!!!

        1. 11) Yea, but still…

      5. All joking aside, I’m still trying to get a grip on exactly what anti-GMO people say is the problem


      6. They are pretty much just horrified that we’re tampering with nature.

        Everything else is confabulation.
        Yes, the will come up with a million reasons why GMOs are supposed to be scary, unhealthy, bad for the Earth, dangerous, tools of evol corporate overlords, etc.
        But all of that stuff is easily debunked bullshit. The true, core motivation is that we’re violating the sanctity of nature by tampering with DNA.

        1. I said “All Joking Aside” people. But seriously, I’m glad I’m not the only person that thinks their rationale is basically, “didn’t you see Jurassic Park?!”

        2. I think a lot of it does come from some primal revulsion to tampering with nature. “Unnatural” is a word that pretty much always has negative connotations. But everything we do is unnatural, so you have to get over it.

          1. I think there’s an underlying presumption that man is not competent to alter the design of a vegetable. It’s odd that the same folk seem to think that men is competent to govern each other.

            1. Or, rather, that some men is competent to govern everyone else.

      7. Catatafish|3.23.15 @ 2:37PM|#
        “All joking aside, I’m still trying to get a grip on exactly what anti-GMO people say is the problem.”

        Trueman was here this weekend, citing the new ‘interpretation’ of the data regarding Roundup (the pesticide, which some frog now says ‘can cause cancer’) and thereby claimed that Roundup Ready crops ‘can cause cancer’.
        IOWs, you have to be pretty much an ignoramus to find a ‘problem’.

    2. You mean like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?

      1. That was exactly what I was thinking of. I also kind of did a slide into Street Trash, because I was thinking that Tenafly Viper could have been brewed from some kind of GMO grain.

        1. The film is littered with darkly comedic deaths and injuries. It also contains the notorious “severed privates” scene where a group of homeless people play catch with the severed genital of one of their number, as he futilely attempts to recover it.

          Andd by genital, they mean the anus, right?

          /Ashley Judd

    3. I wonder if they realize that it’s ‘tater disease what brung us Irish.

  7. That self-ejecting tomato can’t be too far away now!

  8. Let me know when they make a *real* breakthrough, like apples and tomatoes that slice up and fry themselves.

    After doing your taxes.

      1. “Tater disease, what brung us the Irish”

        That’s an awesome sketch.

  9. FOE claims that both MacDonald’s and Gerber have already agreed not to take the apples.

    There’s an Anti-Fist!

  10. Interesting. If they used RNAi tech to do this then these organisms are *not* genetically modified. They have the same genome as the browning apples. How do they maintain the RNA-interference? I did not think it was that powerful.

    1. It’s still a genetic modification, it’s just that instead of disrupting the promotor region for a gene directly, they insert a new sequence of DNA whose RNA output binds to the mRNA of the target gene and marks it for degradation. The RNAi is produced continuously by the newly inserted DNA.

      The terminology is confusing because while only a DNA sequence that produces a protein is considered a gene, any alteration to an organism’s DNA is considered genetic modification.

  11. We Are Winning!!!!

    Seriously, for all the times I’ve heard from progressive retard use that phrase, I’ve finally got a chance to throw it back in their face.

  12. Brown apples taste OK.

    I’m guessing these won’t be very good for cider.

  13. I’ve been studying up on apples and sampling as many different varieties as I can get my hands on with an eye towards establishing a small orchard. I’m no foe to GMO, but I just don’t get this. Sure, many apples *(but not all!) turn brown after you cut them, so what? American consumers have been buying apples with their eyes rather than their mouth and nose for about a century now, and to what end? It’s no wonder that kids don’t want to eat an apple if it’s a red delicious or a gala or a pink lady, some have a decent crunch. Sure, they look nice and might be sweet, and if they don’t brown, they’ll still look nice, but none of them have any real taste.

    Bring on the GMO! But save it for soybeans and dent corn.

  14. Monsanto is an example of what happens when scientists and engineers run a company instead of the marketing department. The scientist says “we want to help people, and our technology will feed millions of starving people.” The marketeer says “Ooh, we focus grouped that idea and it didn’t go anywhere. What have you got that can turn a dog’s hair pink? Women love that idea! Or grass that only needs cut once a season and watered once a month, that tested very well with men 25-50.”

    It worked for Pfizer

  15. Billions of years of evolution and yet humans can change things in the laboratory and there won’t be any problems down the road. I don’t think the science is settled.

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