Organic farmer Thierry Vrain has the following thoughts on the GE apple. Read what he has to say carefully, he also has a science background and a sound knowledge of genetic engineering most of us don’t have.
The apple is the symbol of health. Right ? An apple a day, and all the doctors and Big Pharma vanish. Just dreaming. Would you bite into a Genetically Engineered apple that is not transgenic ? Are you confused ? Aren’t the two terms synonymous ? Not anymore. An Okanagan biotech company has engineered a modified apple that does not bruise. This will be a bonus for wholesalers and retailers like your friendly supermarket. The fruit does not bruise, the slices, the juice, the sauce, all stay pearly white. It is a big improvement, apparently, over the current situation where apple juice and apple sauce are brown. The research was done at the Summerland Research Centre of Agriculture Canada, with some of your tax dollars. I know, I was there at the time. A small biotech company was created with sole purpose to create this new product. They funded a senior researcher’s lab at the Centre in Summerland to make them a transgenic apple tree that would make plenty of money.
The apple trees were engineered using a new technology called Intragenic. To distinguish it from Transgenic.
In each cell of the trees, but mostly in the fruit, there is a protein called Polyphenol oxydase. When a cell is injured it releases this protein to oxidize certain phenol molecules into quinones that are deadly to many bacteria and fungi. It is a defense reaction that allows the plant to ward off infection while it heals its injured tissue. That is the browning that happens when you bite into an apple, or slice it or juice it. If you prevent the protein from doing its job, the browning does not happen. The protein is easily denatured in acidic milieu – tha’ts why your grandmother used lemon juice, and the oxidizing reaction is prevented with antioxidants, like Vitamin C.
So here comes Okanagan Specialty Fruits to the rescue – their web site is at okspecialtyfruits.com They used Intragenic technology to “silence” the Polyphenol Oxydase gene in apple trees. No protein is produced. The apples, even when bruised, remain white. Intragenic means that all the pieces of DNA required to do the genetic transformation were from the apple genome. There are no foreign genes involved. Remember the horror stories of fish genes in tomatoes and glow in the dark vegetables. We are beyond that now. No more Transgenic, here come Intragenic. It is so innocuous according to the biotech companies, that it should require no testing before it is marketed. Have you heard this story before ? And no labeling, that’s for sure. Are you reassured ?
The company has applied to market their new creation to the USDA, but not to CFIA in Canada, not yet anyway. There is a large number of people who are protesting the desecration of the apple, symbol of health, for the sake of making a buck. And possibly we might all get worried about our own health. So if you want to join a swell of people who are outraged at the silliness and arrogance of this particular industrial food, look out for the protests and petitions, and letter writing campaign. Or join a group like GE Free BC, see their web site at gefreebc.org
Last August a federal district judge ruled that Monsanto’s GE Roundup Ready sugar beet were a risk to agriculture and the environment unless proven otherwise by an in depth environmental review by the US Department of Agriculture. The USDA and Monsanto have ignored the order and farmers who have planted their crop. And now the judge is making the growing of these beets illegal. The farmers must pull them out. They are considered genetic pollution.
This episode should serve as a wake up call. You must be aware of multiple research studies, almost all from Europe, that show severe alterations of body and organ functions in laboratory animals fed GE food. There is no reason to think that these animals react too differently from us – after all they are there to taste our food for us, in case it is poisoned. The European research makes it clear that GE foods are a form of toxic pollution of the grossest order. The transgenes and their accompanying court of DNA pieces they come with, are going everywhere in the environment. In the soil food web, in the plants, and ultimately in us. The evidence of direct contamination is slim so far, but it is well established that the transgenes move into the bacteria in our gut. With antibiotic resistance genes as a bonus. Bacteria are very promiscuous and the antibiotic resistance quickly spreads. This genetic pollution is a serious problem that cannot be addressed or solved. I remember reading in the New Scientist a warning by Jeremy Rifkin in 1998 of Genetic Armageddon: “I think that it is likely that we will be plagued by genetic pollution, and that we will look back and see chemical and nuclear pollution as not as significant, even though one brought us global warming and the other waste that we cannot deal with for thousands of years”. At the time I thought that was a pretty extreme and unfounded statement. Today I think he could say “I told you so“.
Another really scary part is that the chemical /biotech corporations end up controlling our food production. If they own the seeds then we can only grow what they give us. And they are prepared to ignore the law to achieve that. I don’t suppose there is a precedent for this, ever. It’s like a sequel to The Space Merchants. But surely the legal minds who write patent law and intellectual property law never imagined that it could be used for such a purpose. The absurdity of this situation and the power of The Corporation can be seen in media reactions to GE issues. Too often any opposition to GE foods and the biotech companies who profit from these not so real food – as Michael Pollan calls them, is portrayed as opposition to free enterprise and hence to freedom.