I spend a portion of my life dedicated to activism. It’s something that helps ease my own personal fears for the environment and future for my four children. I’m proud to belong to an activist group focused on educating the public on GMOs (genetically modified food) called GE Free BC. A big focus over the last year for our group has been on the genetically modified apple for a few reasons:
– the company that purchased the GMO apple technology lives about 4 hours away from my community in BC’s beautiful Okanagan so it’s a big BC/Canadian problem.
– this is only the 2nd fruit produced in the WORLD that is GMO so that makes it a pretty big deal.
– the idea of a tree fruit that needs to be pollinated being engineered is so scary to me (bees are already suffering enough with pesticides) that I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I wasn’t involved in trying to stop this from actually being approved in Canada.
– the Okanagan company that produced the GMO apple, has the technology ready to go for peaches, pears, and cherries. Once our apples are contaminated, 3 other tree fruits will be next.
So with the company behind the GMO apple technology seeking approval from the Canadian Government (we have no way of knowing what the status of this is, as it’s a secret process), our efforts have been very focused to Canada. So you can imagine our shock when news broke this week that the USDA approved the GMO apple for the US. Any North American with concerns about GMOs has been dismayed as this news slowly made it’s way around North America and the rest of the world. It is very difficult to understand why North American governments continue to approve food decisions that consumers clearly don’t want. Not only do consumers not want this, but also farmers, tree growers, and stores are opposed to the idea of growing and selling an apple that doesn’t brown. That is what the ‘modified’ gene trait is with this apple; the gene that browns the apple has been silenced. These Arctic, non-browning apples will not brown until 15-18 days after being cut so it will look fresh when it’s actually rotting. And for the few consumers that don’t see the big deal about having an apple that doesn’t brown, here is why we are so concerned:
– in order to silence the browning gene, they’ve genetically engineered the apple by inserting a virus, bacteria, and antibiotic marker gene into the apple’s DNA.
– no animal or long-term studies done or requested before approval.
– we don’t know what the nutritional value of an apple once it’s actually rotten. The non-browning alteration is a cosmetic coverup to the actual quality of the fruit.
– every cell of the GM apple tree will have the transgene and once the growers start production of these apples, it will cross contaminate soil, water, insects, and any organism (including humans) that eats it. It’s like opening a Pandora’s box of contamination before proper testing is completed.
As North Americans we think we are so much more advanced than other countries. As Canadians, we live in one of the most beautiful, peaceful countries in the world. But over the years we’ve really let food standards slide when it comes to pesticide use, GMO food production (yes, we are big producers of it) and food standards that allow most of the non-organic packaged food on our grocery store shelves to contain GMO ingredients. Countries that are poor and hungry have said “NO” to growing GMO seed and a bigger “NO” to importing our food, which is slowly being viewed worldwide as tainted. So what did the US do when they approved the GMO apple this week? I fear that they’ve just lost another export. Contamination of a food system is viewed as that big a deal in other countries, and since we know the Ambrosia apple started out with a discarded core in a compost bin, the fear needs to be acknowledged.
If this is the first you are hearing about the GMO apple, we hope you feel outrage and want to take action. Here is possibly the most important action you can take. Talk to your grocery store Manager. Keep it easy, short, and passionate. Tell them that you as a consumer do not want the GMO apples (also called non-browning apple or Arctic Apple) and do not want your local store carrying it if the Canadian Government approves it or after they come into production in the US. If the grocery stores are not carrying this apple, the demand will not be as great.
For more information on how to stop the GMO apple, please visit the CBAN website: http://www.cban.ca/ and follow GE Free BC on Facebook. The time is now to plug back into our food system before we have our grandchildren asking us “how did you let this happen??”!!