The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has completed its evaluation for two varieties of apples genetically engineered by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc., and for six varieties of potatoes genetically engineered by J. R. Simplot Company and concluded that these foods are “as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts.”
Okanagan’s Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties of apples, known collectively by the trade name “Arctic Apples,” are genetically engineered to resist browning associated with cuts and bruises by reducing levels of enzymes that can cause browning.
Simplot’s varieties of Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank and Atlantic potatoes are collectively known by the trade name “Innate” and are genetically engineered to reduce the formation of black spot bruises by lowering the levels of certain enzymes in the potatoes. In addition, they are engineered to produce less acrylamide by lowering the levels of an amino acid called asparagine and by lowering the levels of reducing-sugars. Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, and has been found to be carcinogenic in rodents.
Foods derived from genetically engineered plants must meet the same legal standards, including safety standards, as foods derived from traditional plant breeding methods. Though producers of genetically engineered foods are not compelled to submit their products for FDA approval, both Okanagan, of British Columbia, Canada, and Simplot, of Boise, Idaho, submitted to FDA a summary of their safety and nutritional assessments.
“The consultation process includes a review of information provided by a company about the nature of the molecular changes and the nutritional composition of the food compared to traditionally bred varieties,” said Dennis Keefe, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety. “This case-by-case safety evaluation ensures that food safety issues are resolved prior to commercial distribution.”
The changes are expected to make the produce healthier, more palatable and easier to transport and sell without spoilage, and hence result in less food waste. But the approval is expected to spark controversy among critics who argue that genetically modified foods will introduce potentially dangerous unknowns into the American food supply. Okanagan and Simplot may label their products as GMO, something that many consumer groups have advocated for.