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Consumer, environmental groups call on fast food companies to reject GMO apples in wake of FDA approval

Posted Mar. 20, 2015 / Posted by: Adam Russell

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the wake of widespread criticism of the USDA’s recent approval of the first genetically engineered apple, the Food and Drug Administration has deemed the Arctic® apple, owned by synthetic biology company Intrexon (NYSE: XON), safe for consumption, relying only on company data through a voluntary safety consultation. Together with the J.R. Simplot’s Innate potatoes, this is the first time the FDA has approved food explicitly engineered via experimental gene silencing (RNAi) techniques. Last month, the new genetically engineered Arctic Apple® was approved by the USDA to enter the U.S. market, allowing the Arctic® apple to be planted and sold without specific oversight.

Consumer outcry over the USDA and FDA’s approval led ten environmental and consumer organizations, including Friends of the Earth to contact Burger King (NYSE: BKW), Wendy’s Company (NASDAQ: WEN), Subway and Dunkin’ Brands (NASDAQ: DNKN) for their commitments to not sell the Arctic® apple -- which may pose numerous environmental, health and economic risks.

Major food companies including McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) and Gerber (OTCMKTS: NSRGY) have confirmed they have no plans to source or sell this genetically engineered apple. These companies join major apple growing associations, including the Northwest Horticultural Council (representing Washington apple growers who grow more than 60 percent of U.S. apples), which have stated opposition to this GMO apple.

“While the FDA may have approved the sale of this unnecessary, risky GMO apples based on a flawed assessment relying solely on company data, it’s clear that farmers, consumers and food companies, including McDonald’s and Gerber, are already rejecting it.” said Lisa Archer, Food and technology program director at Friends of the Earth. “We anticipate that other leading companies will follow suit -- particularly those that market apples to children, who are most vulnerable to possible health risks.”

The USDA and FDA approvals were based solely on company data, and came despite the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Panel raising critical questions about the safety of RNAi technology when used for pest control purposes, and requesting more data in order to answer these questions. Like other GMOs, this genetically engineered apple won’t be labeled as GMO and won’t have undergone independent safety assessment.

Arctic® apple was genetically engineered to suppress the enzymes which cause it to brown when cut; a natural indicator of freshness. However, browning in apples can be prevented using lemon juice or other natural sources of vitamin C; making this genetically engineered apple unnecessary. In addition, a new certified organic, non-GMO, non-browning apple, the Opal Apple developed using traditional cross-breeding, is currently available at leading grocery retailers.

Scientists believe that the natural browning enzyme in apples may help to fight diseases and pests, meaning that famers may have to increase their pesticide use on these new GM apples. Non-organic apples already carry some of the highest levels of toxic pesticide residues, many of them linked to hormone disruption, reproductive harm and ADHD.

Note to editors: Letters to McDonald’s and Gerber signed by environmental, consumer, parent and food safety groups, with and letters from McDonald’s and Gerber are here: www.nogmoapples.org

Letters sent to fast food companies from Friends of the Earth, Consumers Union, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group, Food Democracy Now!, Food & Water Watch, Green America, GMO Inside, Healthy Child Healthy World, Organic Consumers Association and Pesticide Action Network are here:  Burger KingWendy’s CompanySubway and Dunkin’ Brands

Expert Contact: Dana Perls, (510) 978-4425, dperls@foe.org
Communications Contact: Kate Colwell, (202) 222-0744, kcolwell@foe.org

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