August 14, 2012. Kelowna – Today, groups in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley united to appeal to the local company “Okanagan Specialty Fruits” to stop pursuing a genetically engineered (genetically modified or GM) “nonbrowning” apple which they say jeopardizes the reputation of the Okanagan as a pristine fruit growing area.
The Okanagan-based groups Bee SAFE, Okanagan Greens Society, the True Food Foundation, and the Similkameen Okanagan Organic Treefruit Growers Association have sent a joint letter asking the company to immediately withdraw its applications for approval in Canada and the U.S., and stop all attempts to introduce the GM apple. (1) The groups have also launched a petition asking the provincial government to take action. (2)
If approved, this would be the first GM apple anywhere in the world. Genetic material has been inserted into the apple to stop it from browning after being cut. (3)
“The company has named itself after the Okanagan but our communities don’t want the GM apple they’re pushing,” said Wendy Wright of the Okanagan Greens Society, “This company is using our valley’s name to promote a GM apple that nobody wants. This is our name and our environment, and we want to protect them both.”
“Okanagan growers were the first to reject this GM apple over 10 years ago! Now the name of our beautiful valley is being sullied by association with this GM apple,” said Fred Danenhower, President of the Similkameen Okanagan Organic Treefruit Growers Association “Organic and conventional apple growers are very concerned for their future if this GM apple is approved.”
A recent consumer poll found that 69% of Canadians do not want the GM apple. (4)
“We don’t want the Okanagan Valley to be known across the world as the home of the GM apple. Many tourists come here to pick our famous fruit and people across Canada chose BC apples,” said Heidi Osterman of the True Food Foundation, “We want all Canadians to know that we’ll protect our apples from this genetic experiment.”
The groups say they’re concerned that some consumers mistakenly believe the GM apple is already on the market and that it is therefore already harming the market for BC apples.
“The positive reputation of Okanagan fruit is being misused to promote this GM apple that will look fresh even when it’s not,” said Huguette Allen of Bee SAFE, “The company needs to stop their GM apple so we can all protect the Okanagan’s reputation for growing pure, healthy fresh fruit. Our fruit industry needs good press, not an international controversy over genetic engineering.”
“We support our local apple producers and all the consumers who reject this GM apple,” said Allen.
For more information: Wendy Wright, Okanagan Greens Society, 250 469 1881; Fred Danenhower, Similkameen Okanagan Organic Treefruit Growers Association, 250 499 2577; Heidi Osterman, True Food Foundation, 250 878 9437; Huguette Allen, Bee SAFE, 778 473 3029.
Notes to Editors:
(1) The letter is available at www.okanagangreens.ca
(2) The petition is posted at http://www.okanagangreens.ca/images/Public/no%20gmo%20apple%20petition%20for%20bc.pdf
(3) A description of the GM apple technology can be found at www.cban.ca/apple
(4) Leger marketing poll commissioned by the BC Fruit Growers Association and the Quebec Apple Producers Association http://www.bcfga.com/files/file/Report%20on%20GE%20survey%20-%20July%203%202012.pdf