Public review urged for GM apple

British Columbia may be well known for its natural beauty, but our province also has a particularly good reputation for growing fruit.


That’s why I, like many of you, am concerned about the prospect of a company in British Columbia introducing a genetically modified apple into the marketplace without any prior health, environmental or economic impact assessment. 


The potential threat that genetically modified organisms pose to our agriculture industry and to the health of those consuming genetically modified foods requires comprehensive study and scientific review . We need to fully understand the implications that genetically modified organisms might have before we even begin to think about allowing their use in local agriculture production.


Thousands of concerned citizens and B.C. fruit growers have expressed their concerns and have called on the B.C. Liberal government to ensure that before we see any companies introduce genetically modified apples into our province, we know what the impact will be on the industry, public health and the environment.


Unfortunately, we are seeing another broken promise from Norm Letnick, the minister of agriculture. 


In 2012, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the body formed to represent local governments across the province, passed a resolution asking the B.C. government “to legislate the prohibition of importing, exporting, and the domestic production of fruit and plant material containing GE (genetically engineered) DNA constructs and to declare through legislation that B.C. is a GE-Free province in respect to all tree fruit production.”


In response, Letnick said, “the province will explore the complex GE fruit issue and the UBCM resolution to request legislation to prohibit the B.C. production, importation and export of GE fruit trees and their products. Upon completion of this review, the province will provide UBCM with its findings.”


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And so it was alarming to recently learn that Letnick, unbeknownst to consumers and fruit growers, had changed his mind and now plans to rely entirely on the federal government to develop a position on genetically modified apples.


This passing of the buck is just another example of how little responsibility the B.C. Liberal government is willing to take in issues of public importance.


B.C.’s agriculture minister should be standing up for B.C. fruit growers, not hiding in silence.


The impact of introducing a genetically modified apple into the marketplace in B.C. could be profound.


If the B.C. Liberal government wants to protect B.C.’s interests, it should stand by its commitment to explore and report on the implications that introducing genetically modified apples into the marketplace would have on both growers and consumers alike.


Nicholas Simons is a British Columbia New Democrat agriculture critic and MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast.

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  • Connie Kuramoto

    Many countries are refusing shipment of genetically modified foods. I agree that there should be a public reveiw before GM apples are introduced in BC. I especially would be interested in whether anyone can guarantee, without a doubt, that pollen from these apples could not contaminate and spread to other apples, thereby creating problems both from a patent and an ecological point of veiw, as well as threatening the organic apple industry. When GM papaya was introduced in Hawaii it destroyed the organic papaya industry in many areas there. How could pollen NOT spread to other trees? This is a serious concern.

  • Robert Saik

    1. This has been in review http://www.producer.com/daily/gm-apple-variety-submitted-to-cfia-for-approval/ – in fact all GM crops must be thoroughly reviewed before licencing in either Canada or the US.
    2. The technology does not introduce any new genetics, it simply reduces the poly-phenolic enzymes that cause browning. This is done within the apple itself by switching genes within the apple.
    3. The GM papaya did not harm the organic papaya industry IT SAVED IT, for without the GM papaya to have virus resistance there would be no papaya plants grown there today.

    This is an amazing technology that would reduce apple harvest losses through bruising, would extend shelf life, decrease apple waste and would increase apple consumption because people would actually eat the apple rather than throw them out because they have turned brown.

  • Teresa Lynne

    In fact, the Canadian and US government do not do any independent testing before approving genetically engineered (GE or GM) crops. They rely solely on studies done by the corporations who profit from the approvals, and none of this data is released to the public or independent scientists.

    Fact: genetically engineered plants are living pollution. Genes can spread from GM plants to non-GM plants via seed or pollen. Once we release GM plants into the environment, we cannot recall them and we cannot control them. GM ‘non-browning’ apples will contaminate organic and conventional apples.

    The promised review from the Minister of Agriculture is to assess the potential damage to the BC apple market if the GM apple is approved. This review has not been done and is being ignored by the Liberal Government. Shame on them.

    • Westcoastsyrinx

      Of course the corporations who provide the produce do the studies. What a rediculous insinuation, here. If it is a double blind study with good data, there is no criteria for who can do the study for good reason. Companies HAVE TO do the research to have their produce approved by governmental agencies, and only companies issueing the produce have the right to write off the costs to R&D in taxes.

      The Arctic Apple is being produced to be in competition with counterparts being produced elsewhere and if the NDP government is so set on destroying our agricultural industry by creating road blocks for farmers who have worked hard to come up with produce that will pass muster internationally, then they sure don’t deserve our votes.

      Above are comments such as “Fact: genetically engineered plants are living pollution” Well get busy and provide the scientific data for statements like that or stop poisoning people’s minds just because you are an Organic farmer who doesn’t feel able to compete with the budding genetic editing industry. I say label the chemicals used on ALL produce and then we can see who really is using more chemicals on our foods, because genetically engineered products are designed to use less. Get educated or get out of the agriculture business!

      • Sorry to tell you Massive more amounts of pesticides are being used than ever before on our crops.
        Just google: Beyond Pesticides, SumOfUs.org.,Toxicaction.org, foodrevolution.org, and Dr. Don Huber for a start.

        • Glen

          Thank you for sharing your opinion, Denise. I would also like readers to know that unicorns are real. Simply Google “unicorn” and you will see pictures of them. Also, visit iloveunicorns.com and unicornsarereal-really.org. As we all know, if it’s on the interwebs, it’s got to be true!

  • Instead of sticking your head in the sand google: Pesticide use on GM crops.