The Canadian Biotechnology Network (CBAN) maintains a section on the developments surrounding genetically engineered apples that are making their debut in markets around the US this year. The GM apple (Golden Delicious and Granny Smith) was approved in Canada in March 2015. It is modified to keep from going brown after being cut for 15 days or more.
CBAN’s GM Apples page includes the following talking points on why GM apples are so controversial:
- The GM apple is unnecessary. There are already non-GM techniques that industry and consumers use to slow browning after apples are cut (the industry uses ascorbic acid and the public uses lemon juice). Additionally, many varieties of apples are naturally slow-browning.
- At least 38% of Canadians do not want to eat the GM apple (according to a 2015 Ipsos Reid poll commissioned by CBAN). Before it was approved, 69% of Canadians don’t want the GM apple approved (according to a 2012 survey conducted for the BC Fruit Growers’ Association and the Quebec Apple Producers’ Association).
- The GM apple will not be labelled as genetically modified. The company says the apple will carry the company “Arctic” logo.
- The GM apple threatens the market position for all apples. The BC Fruit Growers’ Association asked for a moratorium on approval of the GM apple to protect the market from consumer backlash and confusion.
- Possible GM contamination is a risk for apple producers. Organic growers are particularly concerned about contamination from GM apples because GM is prohibited in organic farming.
- Our government reviewed the safety of the GM apple based on company data that is kept confidential. The government did not consult with farmers and consumers, and did not consider economic or social concerns before it approved the GM apple.
The controversy grows further when corporations are given access to public schools with the intent of spreading pro GMO propaganda. From a CBAN release:
Growing concern over corporate marketing for a genetically modified (GM) apple in a March 7 webinar for high-school students has led groups to write a joint letter to provincial Ministers of Education, asking them to remove this product placement from the classroom. (1)
“Advertising masquerading as education is unacceptable,” said Leo Broderick, a former high school teacher and administrator, and Vice-Chair of the Council of Canadians.
Executive Director of “Agriculture in the Classroom” Johanne Ross’s comments reported in a CBC article Friday, March 3, (2) after the groups initially raised concerns to the press, denied that the focus of the lesson was on GM food or the Arctic Apple. However, the civil society groups – the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Kids Right to Know, the Council of Canadians, and Earth Action PEI – assert there is no misunderstanding of the content. They have sent a letter to Ministers asking them to withdraw their support for the webinar, and to communicate with “Agriculture in the Classroom” that product placement in schools is not acceptable.
The webinar “Trashing Food Waste with Technology” includes:
- The only speaker Jessica Brady, who is on the marketing and communications team of Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the Arctic Apple company;
- A pre-webinar lesson plan (3) which calls for students to spend time on the company’s website and for teachers to “Inform students that the Arctic Apple is an example of a genetically modified food that is available to eat! Explore the website to learn more about Arctic Apples – this will be the focus of the live stream event you and your class will be watching.” (4)
“How are we supposed to accept the information in the webinar as unbiased when it’s coming from a company that wants to sell us their product?” said Ontario high-school student Rachel Parent, who is also the founder of Kids Right to Know which advocates for mandatory labelling of GM foods, “There’s no alternative point of view being offered to students. This isn’t education, its propaganda.”