A final, 30-day public comment period on USDA consideration of opening the United States to the growing and sales of genetically modified apples began Nov. 8 and will conclude on Dec. 9.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is seeking public comment on its environmental assessment and plant risk assessment documents for the Arctic Golden Delicious and Arctic Granny Smith apples modified to be nonbrowning by Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. of Summerland, B.C.
APHIS will only consider comments on the documents as to whether the apples are likely to pose environmental and plant pest risks, not general comments on genetically modified organisms, said Joel Brooks, marketing and communications specialist at Okanagan Specialty Fruits.
“We’re really excited. After three-and-a-half years, the assessments conclude it is safe and doesn’t pose risks. That’s very satisfying,” said Neal Carter, president of Okanagan Specialty Fruits.
He said he expects approval within 90 days in the United States and only slightly longer in Canada.
“We are closer than ever to bringing consumers and producers safe, value-added Arctic apples, providing greater convenience and reducing food waste,” Carter said.
An orchardist, Carter has been field testing his GMO apples for 10 years. Under USDA permits, trial plots are growing in Washington state and New York, Brooks said.
The apples have been modified not to brown when sliced by switching off a gene. The sliced apple business could save costs of antioxidant treatment to prevent browning and use of sliced apples could increase, Carter has said.
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The council submitted comments during the first U.S. public comment period in 2012. There were a total of 72,745 public comments and the majority were opposed, Schlect said. Of that, 1,939 were unique comments and the rest were form responses, Brooks noted.