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FDA verifies safety of genetically engineered apples, potatoes

By DOROTHY NOBLE
AFP Correspondent

WASHINGTON, DC. (March 31, 2015) — After reviewing two varieties of apples genetically engineered by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc. and three varieties of potatoes genetically engineered by J.R. Simplot Company, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded that these foods are as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts.
Dr. Dennis Keefe, director of FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety said in the agency’s March 20 release, “This case-by-case safety evaluation ensures that food safety issues are resolved prior to commercial distribution.”
Also on March 20, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada approved the Arctic apples.
Okanagan is in British Columbia, Canada.
Health Canada said their assessment concluded that an Arctic apple “is safe for consumption, still has all its nutritional value and therefore does not differ from other apples available on the market.”
Okanagan’s Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apple varieties, known as “Arctic Apples,” resist browning when cut or bruised.
The genetic engineering process reduces the enzymes that cause browning.
Both the Arctic apples and the Innate potatoes received evaluation and approval earlier this year by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Simplot’s Innate potatoes, which include Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank and Atlantic, are genetically engineered to reduce the formation of black spot bruises.
This process lowers the levels of certain enzymes.
Innate potatoes produce less acrylamide by reducing the amino acid asparagine and lowering the reducing-sugars.
The chemical acrylamide can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking, including frying. Acrylamide has caused cancer in rodents.
The J.R. Simplot Company, Boise, Idaho, has a second generation of Innate potatoes under review by USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
These offer increased resistance to late blight and improved storability.
Michigan State potato breeder and geneticist Dr. David S. Douches, who has conducted field trials of Innate said, “This potato delivers significant health and sustainability benefits, all by using the potato’s own DNA. Such advancements haven’t been possible using traditional breeding.”
The Center for Science in the Public Interest’s biotechnology director Gregory Jaffe said there is no reason why the Arctic apples and Innate potatoes would pose any food safety or environmental risk.
However, Jaffe commented that the approval process for these new crops is badly flawed.
He said Congress should legislate a rigorous mandated process for new biotech crops rather than companies voluntarily requesting an evaluation by the FDA.
Both the Arctic apple and the Innate potato underwent over a decade of development and testing prior to the federal approvals.