3 Companies Say 'No' to GMO Arctic Apples

Wendy’s, one of the nation’s top restaurant chains, has confirmed the company does not plan to sell or use the Arctic apple. In the wake of widespread criticism of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) recent approval of the first genetically engineered apple, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently deemed the Arctic apple, owned by synthetic biology company Intrexon, safe for consumption, relying only on company data through a voluntary safety consultation. Like other genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the Arctic apple will not be required to be labeled as genetically engineered.

Like other GMOs, the Arctic apple (pictured right) will not be required to be labeled as genetically engineered. The Arctic apple doesn't turn brown like a non-GMO apple. Photo credit: Okanagan Specialty Fruits

Wendy’s, which sells apple slices in its kids’ meals, confirmed in April via email to Friends of the Earth that it has no plans to sell Arctic apples. McDonald’s and Gerber have also stated that they have no plans to source or sell this genetically engineered apple.

“Wendy’s is wisely listening to its customers by joining other major food companies and apple growers in rejecting this unnecessary and risky genetically engineered apple,” said Lisa Archer, food and technology program director at Friends of the Earth. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that there is no demand for this new GMO.”

Despite growing public demands for transparency and GMO labeling, large chemical and food companies continue to push for a Senate bill that correlates to to HR 1599, dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act. This bill, recently approved in the House of Representatives, would preempt state and local authority to label and regulate genetically engineered food, allow food companies to make false "natural" claims about foods containing GMOs and codify the failed system of voluntary labeling of GMOs. A Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on GMO regulation has been scheduled for Oct. 21.

Consumer outcry over the USDA and FDA’s approval led 10 environmental and consumer organizations to ask Burger KingWendy’s CompanySubway and Dunkin’ Brands to refrain from selling the Arctic apple, which may pose numerous environmental, health and economic risks. Friends of the Earth, CREDO, Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, Green America and Organic Consumers Association have gathered more than 266,000 petition signatures urging major fast food restaurants and food companies to not source GMO apples.

Major apple growing associations, including USApple and the Northwest Horticultural Council (representing Washington apple growers, who grow more than 60 percent of U.S. apples), have also opposed the GMO apple, some voicing concerns that potential cross-contamination may cause important export markets such as Europe and China to reject U.S. grown apples or require costly testing and certifications from farmers and exporter companies.

The GMO Arctic apple is genetically engineered via a new, virtually untested experimental technique called RNA interference—or RNAi—that many scientists are concerned may have negative, unintended impacts on human health and the environment. This technique was used to silence genes related to the production of enzymes that cause apples 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 the 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 farmers may have to increase their pesticide use on these new GMO apples. Conventional, non-GMO apples already carry some of the highest levels of toxic pesticide residues, many of them linked to hormone disruption, reproductive harm and ADHD. Scientists also worry that while Okanagan's RNAi process aims to silence four of the apple’s genes, the process may be dangerously imprecise: targeted gene sequences are similar to other closely related genes, so the silencing process could unintentionally impact genes that affect other functions in the plant.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits, has also announced plans to introduce genetically engineered peaches, cherries and pears in the near future.

Another new GMO is also facing increasing market rejection. Due to a campaign by Friends of the Earth and allies, more than 60 retailers, including Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Safeway and Kroger, representing more than 9,000 grocery stores across the country, have made commitments to not sell AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage GMO salmon, currently pending approval by the FDA.

“Wendy’s commitment further demonstrates the growing market rejection of new GMOs in the pipeline for approval, such as GMO salmon,” said Patty Lovera, associate director of Food & Water Watch.

"Consumers have spoken and Wendy's has listened," said Katherine Paul, associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. "What health-conscious consumers want are wholesome, pesticide-free, nutrient-dense apples--not cosmetically appealing apples created using a risky and untested technology and unleashed into the market without a label."

“Wendy’s has done the right thing by committing to not sell genetically engineered apples. It is risky to allow these products to enter the food supply when impacts of the basic technology are so poorly understood,” said Rebecca Spector, west coast director at Center for Food Safety. “But this one step isn’t enough. All American consumers have the right to know how their food is produced and to ensure that right, we need proper labeling on all GE products.”


Inside the Nation’s Largest Organic Vertical Farm

50 Powerful Sources of Plant-Based Protein

86 Food Products Contain Possible Cancer-Causing Additive

2.6 Billion Pounds of Monsanto’s Glyphosate Sprayed on U.S. Farmland in Past Two Decades

Show Comments ()

Despite Trump’s Bluster, U.S. Officials and Scientists Maintain Climate Work with International Partners

Trump has loudly declared his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, but, behind the tweets and the headlines, U.S. officials and scientists have carried on working with international partners to fight climate change, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Keep reading... Show less
Gina Loudon and administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Gage Skidmore

EPA Sued Over Failure to Release Correspondence With Heartland Institute

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being sued for its "unlawful and unreasonable delay" in responding to requests for information about the agency's communications with the Heartland Institute, according to a complaint by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

The Heartland Institute is an Illinois-based think tank that rejects the science of man-made climate change and has received funding from the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry.

Keep reading... Show less
Aerial photo of Duke Energy Coal Ash Spill. Wake Forest University Center for Energy, Environment & Sustainability

Trump Administration Seeks to Gut Water Pollution Safeguards, Putting Communities at Risk

By Mary Anne Hitt

A Hollywood scriptwriter couldn't make this up. One day after new data revealed widespread toxic water contamination near coal ash disposal sites, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt announced a proposal to repeal the very 2015 EPA safeguards that had required this data to be tracked and released in the first place. Clean water is a basic human right that should never be treated as collateral damage on a corporate balance sheet, but that is exactly what is happening.

Keep reading... Show less
Impossible Foods

Impossible Burger Executive Grilled at Sustainable Foods Summit

An executive from a company selling a genetically engineered meat alternative faced tough questions at the Sustainable Foods Summit held in San Francisco at the end of January.

Keep reading... Show less
Elephant family in Kenya. Nzomo Victor / Flickr

Why Trump’s New Trophy Hunting Council Is a Disaster

By Elly Pepper

In early November—the same week the Trump administration announced its disastrous decision to allow elephant and lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia—the administration decided to create an advisory committee, the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), to advise Trump on how to enhance trophy hunters' ability to hunt internationally.

Yup, that means the administration now has a council dedicated exclusively to promoting the killing of more imperiled species, like elephants and lions, for sport. The council's mandate includes counseling Trump on the economic, conservation, and anti-poaching benefits of trophy hunting, of which there are very few. Sadly, Trump doesn't want advice on the many drawbacks of trophy hunting.

Keep reading... Show less
A robot bee from a season three episode of Black Mirror on Netflix

Walmart Files Patent for Robot Bees

With the mass die-off of bees spelling trouble for agriculture, the world's largest retailer has filed patents for the use of "unmanned vehicles," or drones, to aid with pollination and crop production.

In U.S. Patent Office documents made public last week, Walmart has applied for six patents on drones designed to identify pest damage, spray pesticides and pollinate plants.

Keep reading... Show less
The iconic moai of Easter Island are threatened by erosion caused by rising seas. Aupaelfary / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Climate Change Threatens Easter Island

Easter Island has long served as a reminder of what happens to a civilization when the environment it depends upon collapses. Now, the iconic remains of that civilization are under threat from a new environmental challenge: global climate change.

Easter Island, Rapa Nui in Polynesian, is surrounded by statues called moai situated on top of ahu, or platforms. But according to an in-depth report for The New York Times published Thursday, the moai are now at risk from erosion caused by sea level rise.

Keep reading... Show less
Hurricane Harvey's record rains were made at least three times more likely by climate change, scientists calculated. Joseph Cannon

'Climate Change' Removed From FEMA's Strategic Plan

Last year, one of the hottest years in modern history, was also the costliest year ever for weather disasters, setting the U.S. back a record-setting $306 billion in spending aid and relief cost.

But it appears the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the agency that responds to hurricanes, flooding and wildfires, is ignoring a critical factor that exacerbates these natural disasters: climate change.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!