EDITORIAL – Monster apples creating buzz of public concern

GMO Okanagan apples causing concern amongst some in the industry and the general public.

Apples have a long-standing reputation as a healthy food. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, as Benjamin Franklin is said to have put it.

But the Frankenstein complex has an equally long, if not longer history. That’s the nickname given to the fear that man’s messing around with the building blocks of life will eventually create something that will destroy humanity.

Bring the two together and you’ve got a problem. It’s hard to blame the B.C. Fruit Growers for their concern that the introduction of a genetically modified apple could ruin the reputation of the Okanagan as a source of high quality healthy fruit.

And while Neal Carter, whose company has used gene modification to create a non-browning apple, certainly has his eye on the commercial return while extolling the benefits of his Arctic apples, there is one benefit that stands out.

And, coincidentally, it’s the same as what made the apple’s reputation. Most people don’t care about a little browning, but it is also indicative of a breakdown of the apple’s nutritional factors.

Take away the browning, and the vitamins and anti-oxidants stay.

So, on one hand, we have growers wanting to preserve the reputation of their product as a healthy food and on the other we have an apple that retains its nutritional value for longer. Anyone see some common ground here?

Consider too that growers have been practising genetic modification for centuries, albeit by the much slower selection and grafting methods.

Caution is a good thing, especially when it comes to monkeying with genes. Extensive testing, that too. But allowing caution to grow into an unreasoning fear is never a good thing. If turning off an enzyme can preserve the best aspects of an apple, it shouldn’t be thrown away on account of ancient fear.