A recent article that appeared in The Western Producer (online May 31; print June 7, 2012) featured Ag-West Bio member Okanagan Specialty Fruits, a bioscience company that has developed apple varieties that do not brown.
Ag-West Bio wishes to express support for the company and the technology.
We believe that OSF has a strong business platform and uses an innovative technology that promises to bring great benefits to the apple industry.
OSF was established by a group of grower-investors, including OSF founder Neal Carter, who were searching for ways to revitalize a stagnant apple market. They pinpointed two areas they believed could improve the industry, both related to the browning issue:
- The browning issue places the cut-food market out of reach for the apple industry. Non-browning varieties have the potential to change that. Currently, sliced apples used in this market are dipped in chemical solutions to preserve the white colour, but still don’t deliver the highest quality product. As well, the added cost makes fresh-cut apples non-competitive with other fresh produce convenience items.
- Superficial browning results in real costs for every member of the apple supply chain, from grower to the grocer. These truly skin deep blemishes result in lost sales and profits, resulting in a less sustainable fresh apple business.
OSF licensed the rights to use a technology developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia.
Arctic Apples have been developed through the application of a reliable technology in which genes responsible for the browning process are silenced.
Silencing does not involve the insertion of genes of a different species into the apple plant. Rather, existing genes responsible for browning within the plant are switched off.
OSF’s practical solution could translate to less waste, which would benefit the entire value chain: producers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization reported in a 2011 study that one-third of all food produced globally is wasted before consumption, which is not sustainable in a world with a growing population and finite natural resources.
This innovation also has the potential to increase the use of apples in restaurants and as a convenient and healthy snack food.
In December 2011, OSF began the government review process required to take this novel food to market in Canada. The company is participating in a voluntary notice of submission process with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, giving the Canadian public the opportunity to comment on its Arctic Apple submission.
Stewardship and transparency are high priorities for OSF. The company is revealing its technology and methods for public scrutiny because it is confident in its safety, both for people and the environment.
Ag-West Bio has great confidence in the Canadian regulatory process. The regulatory system for novel plants and novel food is administered by the CFIA and Health Canada. The rigorous science-based process ensures food safety for Canadian consumers.
It should also be noted that biotech crops and their products have been grown on more than 2.5 billion acres and consumed by millions of people around the globe for more than 15 years without a single incidence of negative health effects.
We believe it is important to embrace innovations such as Arctic Apples that lead to value-added agricultural products and benefits for all society, from producers through to consumers.
Wilf Keller is president and chief executive officer of Ag-West Bio Inc.