On Friday, March 20, The Food and Drug Administration approved genetically engineered apples and potatoes. This new “breed” of apples does not brown and the potatoes are resistant to bruising. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) concluded that both are as safe and nutritious as their unengineered counterparts.
These new types of apples and potatoes had already been approved by the Department of Agriculture but were analyzed only regarding the possibility of becoming a threat to other plants. As they don’t, the genetically engineered apples and potatoes were given the green light for commercial planting.
Not it was the FDA’s turn to asses these products, from a food safety point of view.
The Arctic apples are specifically modified by Okanagan Specialty Fruits to resist turning brown after being cut. This way, the slices will look appealing for a longer time, encouraging people to consume them. This will probably lower the fruit wastage rate.
The Innate potatoes were developed by the J.R. Simplot Company. They are able to resist bruising and have been engineered to produce less potential cancer-causing substances when fried.
The FDA doesn’t usually announce publicly the release of a new review regarding genetically modified crop but due to concerns coming from media and consumers, an official announcement regarding the report was needed.
Several environmental groups are urging restaurants and food companies not to use these new types of apples and potatoes. Furthermore there is a growing concern from apple growers, processors and manufacturers regarding the effect this engineered product will have on the wholesome reputation of apples.
The consumer and environmental organizations against genetically engineered products doubt the validity of the FDA report as the conclusions mentioned in the review came from the developing company’s point of view and not the agency’s itself.
For example, the FDA review contains a fragment saying “It is our understanding that Okanagan has concluded that the apples are not materially different in safety and nutrition from other apples”. So the assessment was made from the producing company’s point of view.
The FDA, on the other hand, stated that their assessments were exhaustive. Director of the agency’s office of food additive safety Dennis Keefe made the following statement:
“This case-by-case safety evaluation ensures that food safety issues are resolved prior to commercial distribution.”
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