Will Organic Apples be re-defined as “Contaminated?”

There is an interesting new “GMO” apple nearing approval in the US and in Canada called the “Arctic Apple.”  It was developed by a British Columbia, grower-based organization called Okanagan Specialty Fruit.  Certain genes in these apples are turned off so that the fruit doesn’t  express the enzymes that make the apples turn brown after cutting.  You could slice the apples, put them in your lunch or your kid’s lunch, and they would still have full flavor, vitamins, and color when it was time to eat them.  I think this is a useful, consumer-oriented trait. Predictably, there are opponents for this sort of scientific innovation. I’ve written before about this issue before, but in this post I want to specifically address a particular objection to the commercialization of this technology – the concept that the growing of these “GMO” apples could put the local organic apple industry at risk of becoming “genetically contaminated.” I absolutely agree

Wheat being loaded into a trailer from a harvester, by KJHvM

Rogue Wheat Now Found in 127 Countries!

Rogue wheat is growing in wheat fields in 127 countries around the world! Should consumers be concerned? Ok, I’m indulging in a poor imitation of the emotive language common in sensational writings about food issues. What I said in the paragraph above is all true, it’s just misleading because of a lack of context. After the “crisis” of glyphosate tolerant wheat being found in an Oregon field, I thought it would be useful to put that event into perspective.  So… Wheat 1.0 Wheat is largely a “saved seed crop,” meaning that farmers set aside some of the grain from each harvest to use as seed the next year.  This is a practical thing for these growers to do because planting rates of wheat seed are very high (e.g. 80 or more lbs/acre) so it would be very expensive to haul bags or bins of seed very far.  Also, except for a little bit in

Cotton Bollworm. Source: USDA

Pest resistance to Bt crops

The issue of pest resistance to insect resistant Bt crops receives regular media attention, partly because anti-biotechnology lobbies use it as an argument to vilify GM crops. The German NGO testbiotech, in a recently published report commissioned by Member of the European Parliament Martin Häuslingof the Green Party, argues that because of potential resistance development, GM crops should not be allowed for cultivation in the EU: There must be no large-scale, commercial cultivation of GE herbicide-tolerant or insecticide-producing crops. Such crop cultivation is unsustainable and will lead to a ‘race’ to step up their cultivation. The idea that a particular technology should be banned if it cannot be used forever is dangerously misguided.


Counting The Cost of the Anti-GMO Movement

Last week, environmentalist Mark Lynas presented an articulate and painfully honest apology for his significant role in starting the anti-GMO movement in the 1990s.  He said that it was the most successful campaign in which he has ever been involved, but after finally looking into the science, he now deeply regrets what he and others accomplished.  While it is gratifying to have a figure like Lynas make such a turn-about, it does nothing to mitigate the damage of which this anti-science movement has perpetrated on humanity and the environment.  Ideally, such a dramatic reversal will induce others in the movement to rethink their positions. but this sort of openness to letting the science speak into bias is likely to be rare. Lynas is right that anti-GMO campaigners have been extremely successful at blocking, delaying, or destroying potential crop improvements via biotechnology.  Lynas had a lot of ground to cover in his speech, so