First Genetically Modified Apples Could be Sold in Canada
This year, the first-ever genetically engineered (genetically modified or GM) apples could be for sale in Canada, but only as apple slices.
Canadian and US consumers won’t find whole GM apples in the grocery store produce section yet. However, there are many possible ways that GM apple slices could appear on our plates.
The GM “Arctic Apple” is genetically modified to be non-browning so that when it’s cut or bruised, the apple flesh doesn’t turn brown. The company Okanagan Specialty Fruits says its GM apple slices will last almost a week longer than non-GM pre-sliced apples, with a shelf life of around 28 days.
At the moment, most of the company’s GM apple slices are sold in the US, but some may reach Canada this year. However, because there is no mandatory labelling of GM foods, Canadians could be unknowingly buying these GM apple slices.
Over 80% of Canadians just want to know where GM foods are on the shelves . If you want to avoid eating GM apples, here is some information to help.
How to Avoid Eating GM Apples
The GM apple is only being sold as apple slices, not as whole apples.
In snack bags: The GM apples are sold in the US in small snack bags of apple slices or dried apple chips. The bags can be identified by looking for the company’s “Arctic” logo. These bags could start appearing in convenience stores or grocery stores in Canada.
In prepared foods: The sliced GM apples are also being sold in bigger bags of pre-sliced apples, for use in the foodservice industry in the US and Canada. This means that GM apple slices could be used by any restaurant, catering company or grocery store in Canada that buys bags of pre-sliced apples to use in their products. GM apple slices could be served in university cafeterias and hotels, by catering services, in hospital and prison meals, at restaurants, or through ready-made salads and fruit-trays in our grocery stores.
Tips to Avoid GM Apples
The basic advice is to ask your restaurant or store manager, or avoid pre-sliced apples.
- Don’t buy fruit trays or other prepared foods with sliced apples. Or ask your store or catering company if the sliced apples were cut in-house or if they are from a bag of pre-sliced apples.
- Avoid sliced apples at restaurants, or in food products such as apple pies, that could have been made from bags of pre-sliced apples.
- Check any snack bags of sliced or dried apples for the corporate “Arctic” logo which indicates the apples are GM.
- Only buy apple products that are certified organic or Non-GMO Project Verified.
If you are unsure, always buy certified organic apples and organic apple products– organic farmers do not use GM seeds (or synthetic pesticides).
History of GM Apples
Earlier this year, the GM apple company Okanagan Specialty Fruits told the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network that a small amount of pre-sliced GM apples had been sold in Canada through a foodservice outlet (that remains unidentified) . For the moment, the company says it is “focused strictly on pre-sliced apples.”  The company’s president said, “I don’t know if we’ll ever see them loose on the produce shelf.”
Okanagan Specialty Fruits got approval for its genetically modified non-browning Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples in Canada and the US. in 2015, followed by an approval for its GM Fuji apples in 2018. GM apple slices were first sold in the US in 2017 and the first small amount came onto the market in Canada sometime after the 2019 fall harvest.
There are no GM apple tree orchards in Canada yet and it takes many years to establish orchards of new trees. All the GM apples are currently grown in Washington, USA and there are only a small amount of GM apples in production.
Few GM Fruits & Vegetables in Canada
There are actually only a few whole fruits and vegetables on the market that are genetically modified . This means that the produce section of your grocery store is mostly free of GM foods.
GM Fruit: GM papaya grown in Hawaii is the only one other GM fruit on the market and it is the only GM fruit in the produce section currently.
GM Vegetables: Some GM sweetcornis on the market (corn on the cob), but the GM potatoes that are now sold in the US are not yet sold in Canada.
Unnecessary Genetic Modification
Do we even need a non-browning apple? There are actually many apple varieties that are naturally slow-browning. This also means that if you cut your apple and it doesn’t turn brown, this doesn’t automatically mean your apple is genetically modified.
The GM apple company is promoting the non-browning apple as a way to reduce food waste, because many people do not eat a whole apple in one sitting. However, there are many other solutions to this problem, including growing smaller apples for consumers.
Additionally, companies and consumers already have non-GM techniques to slow browning after apples are cut: companies use ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and consumers at home use lemon juice.
Most importantly, browning is important information for consumers about freshness.
- Email from Okanagan Speciality Fruits to Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, July 17, 2020.
- Chris Crawford. (2020). Apple and pear trends. Retrieved from https://www.supermarketperimeter.com/articles/5184-apples-and-pears-trends
- The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. GM Products. Retrieved from www.cban.ca/gmproducts
About the Author