What is Organic

Letter from a concerned apple grower

I have penned two blogs alerting you on the impending comment period for the GMO Arctic® apple poised for deregulation by APHIS. The first one “Let’s give Eve a better apple?” described the technology and risks associated with this new type of genetic modification. The second blog, “Arctic apple vortex set to descend upon the US!”, described how the comment period had been extended and urged all interested parties to comment. This Friday is the deadline to make public comments. I thought it timely and prudent to share a letter I received from one of the larger organic grower shippers of apples in the Pacific Northwest. His concern speaks volumes and should be heeded as a warning if this apple is approved. Thanks to Ralph Broetje, owner and operator of Broetje Orchards for allowing me to post this letter:  

Dear Farming Friends,

We farmers are often a quiet bunch, but there are times where we must use our voice to do what is right for our farms, communities and industry. This is one of those times. I have enclosed a letter that I sent to the USDA in December to protest the proposal to deregulate a new, genetically modified apple, called Arctic Apple. As growers, packers, shippers and consumers, I urge you to do the same. Your comments are critical.

Some recent information on GMO foods has reinforced our concerns. Just this week, Time Magazine has a full page article in the health section speaking about GMO food. In it, General Mills has announced on January 2nd that Cheerios will now be made without any GMO ingredients because consumers prefer non-GMO food. A recent survey by the NPD Group shows that 20% of U.S. consumers say they are “very” or “extremely” concerned about genetically modified food – double the percentage in 2002. Whole Foods will be requiring all products containing GMO ingredients to be labeled by 2018. Chipotle and others are following. Further underscoring the trend, 26 states introduced bills in 2013 that would require labeling of food with GMO ingredients.

The precedent is clear – whether you are outright against GMO or simply want to ensure that the apple market avoids a shock as customers walk away from fresh foods that are assuredly non-GMO – this petition for the GMO Arctic Apple should be rejected. The USDA’s assessment dated August 2013 states several times that cross pollination between GMO apples and non-GMO apples will result in GMO hybrid seed (see pages 11, 31, 34, 35 and 53 of the draft assessment). As bees cannot be contained within a certain property, cross pollination cannot be prevented. Non-GMO apples will be contaminated.

Apples have always been viewed as a powerful symbol of natural fruit – nature’s original health food. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Putting out this GMO pollen source into our industry will hurt that image and put in question all the apple breeding programs around the world. Through natural, cross pollination hundreds of thousands of seeds are planted each year, and the fruit from those seedlings are evaluated. Thousands of new varieties from these plantings are watched to find the one or two apples that might be outstanding enough to warrant further trials. Many of these all-natural selections show up having characteristics such as pink flesh, white flesh and non-browning flesh. It is this last characteristic, non-browning, that the Arctic Apple provides, but it is not needed as traditional breeding programs already have.

Based on their science saying cross contamination from the GMO apple to the non-GMO apples will happen and produce GMO hybrid seeds, the Arctic Apple should be banned. Please join with us in making this happen. Deadline for submitting your personal comments are January 31st, 2014. Please send your comments by either of the following methods:

• Federal Portal: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2012-0025

Postal Mail: Docket No. APHIS–2012–0025

Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS

Station 3A–03.8, 4700 River Road, Riverdale, MD 20737–1238.

Ralph Broetje

Broetje Orchards, Owner/Operator

A farmers words are often profound and should always be heeded.

3 thoughts on “Letter from a concerned apple grower”

  1. In addition to the breeding of non-browning apples via conventional methods, there are now highly effective, affordable, and organically approved treatments for sliced apples that produce a 20+ day window for consumption. Organic sliced apple bags are now finding their way into school vending machines, and many kids are finding them a welcomed alternative to a sugar-sweetened drink or a high-fat or high-sodium snack. I agree with Ralph Broetje that the lack of a meaningful coexistence plan, to mitigate and financially cover economic losses from gene flow and lost premium prices (for both non-GE conventional and organic growers) is a ample reason for USDA to not deregulate the Artic apple at this time.

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