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Keep GMO apples out of baby food!

Posted Sep. 7, 2013 / Posted by: Dana Perls

GMO Apples: Coming soon to baby food, school lunches and Happy meals

As the fall season rushes in, my kitchen fills up with canned apple sauces, baked apple crisps, and fresh apple slices. And as an aunt, I have fond memories of feeding applesauce to my little niece when she was a baby.  Apples are more than an iconic healthy snack--they are one of the most widely consumed foods, and are often one of the first foods for babies. But consumers, and especially parents and other caregivers, may soon want to avoid that apple a day.

As early as 2014, the genetically engineered Arctic Apple® may enter our food supply in everything from packaged, pre-sliced apples served in school lunches and Happy Meals to applesauce and other baby food. Like other genetically engineered foods, this new GMO apple won’t be labeled and won’t have undergone independent safety testing.

Worse yet, it may also carry a heavier load of pesticide residues than other conventional apples; was produced using a new, experimental and potentially hazardous new genetic engineering technique; and threatens apple farmers, particularly organic apple farmers. Apple growers and consumers alike say they don’t need or want this GMO apple.

So, given all of these potential problems, why is this new genetically engineered apple being introduced into our food supply?

The Arctic Apple® was not designed for increased nutritional value, but for purely cosmetic purposes -- it was genetically engineered by a Canadian Company, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, to not turn brown even after it has been cut or bruised, and may look fresh when it is actually decaying. However, as your grandmother or any chef can tell you, browning in apples can be prevented naturally by applying lemon juice, apple juice or another source of vitamin C -- making this new risky genetically engineered apple completely unnecessary. In fact, that’s exactly what Crunch Pak, the leading supplier of pre-sliced apples, does to prevent browning.

Personally, I want to know if I’m buying something that is rotting or has been bruised. I also want to know that it’s safe.  But unfortunately, like most GMOs, there have not been any long-term, independent feeding studies conducted to demonstrate this GMO apple’s safety. In addition, it was genetically engineered via a new, experimental technique called RNA interference, which some scientists are concerned may have negative unintended and unpredictable impacts on human health and the environment.

In addition, apples are already at the top of the charts for produce with the highest levels of toxic pesticide residues. We know that many of these pesticides, such as organophosphates, are linked to adverse health impacts including hormone disruption, reproductive harm and even ADHD.

We also know that this apple has been engineered to lack the natural browning enzyme that may help fight diseases and pests, meaning farmers may have to use even more pesticides in growing the Arctic Apple®. These pesticides cannot all be washed off as some are systemic (meaning they are absorbed into the plant), and some common apple pesticides have been found to be polluting our kids at levels far above the government mandated “safe” level of exposure, especially during the height of apple season when children eat more apples.

Pound for pound, kids eat more food and have higher levels of pesticide exposure -- and we know that early life exposures to toxic pesticides can be especially harmful. This is yet another reason that we don’t need to introduce this new GMO apple into our children’s diets.

And this is not just a consumer issue. Farmers are also concerned that this “one bad apple” could spoil the whole bunch -- harming sales here and abroad. Christian Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, which represents the tree-fruit industry in and around Washington State, which produces about 60 percent of the nation’s apples told the New York Times: “We don’t think it’s in the best interest of the apple industry of the United States to have that product in the marketplace at this time.” Some of Canada’s top apple growers associations and USApple, have voiced similar objections. This apple could contaminate organic and non-GMO apple crops alike, and possibly cause valuable export markets to reject U.S. apples as has happened in past with GMO wheat and rice.

According to USApple (the trade association for the U.S. apple industry) president and CEO Nancy Foster, “The genetically modified apples … offer questionable commercial benefit yet raise serious marketing questions for virtually all segments of our industry. Such concerns include consumer desire for choice, possible demand for labeling, potential consumer rejection of future genetically modified produce, and possible market disruption here and in our export markets. Exports are extremely valuable for our industry. Over 25 percent of the U.S. fresh apple volume is sold overseas each year. In 2009, exports accounted for 35 percent of the value of our $2.2 billion farm-gate production total. Consequently, more than $1 out of every $3 in apple revenue is derived from exports.”

Basically, the GMO apple has been rejected by the apple industry, could increase use of toxic pesticides,  and is simply unnecessary -- particularly in food intended for vulnerable babies and kids.

That’s why Friends of the Earth is urging baby food companies, one of the biggest purchasers of apples, to commit to not use this GMO apple if approved to enter the food supply.

Gerber, one of the world’s largest baby food companies, has stated that it currently doesn’t use GMO fruits or vegetables in its baby food. Until now that's been easy because there weren't any staple GMO fruits or vegetables, like apples, on the market. But since GMO apples are likely to flood the market in the near future, we need your help to send a strong message to Gerber: keep GMO apples out of baby food.

Here’s how you can help:
1.    Sign our petition to Gerber asking it to keep GMO apples out of baby food.
2.    Ask your family and friends on Facebook, Twitter and other social media to take action against GMO apples and spread the word.



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