Arctic® apples do not require any additional pesticide sprays, nor do they need to be treated any differently than their conventional counterparts. Growers can manage an Arctic® Granny tree in the exact same manner as a conventional Granny Smith, and the same goes for any other Arctic® variety. This is one of the advantages of improving attributes using the precision of biotechnology – specific traits can be targeted without affecting others.
However, we have seen suggestions that “Arctic® apples may require increased pesticide usage” and, while this isn’t true, we do understand where this misunderstanding originated. The role of polyphenol oxidase (PPO), the enzyme we silence in Arctic® apples, differs depending on the crop, as well as the pest and disease pressures in question.
As an example of where confusion can arise, there was a 2002 paper from Cornell University titled, “Overexpression of polyphenol oxidase in transgenic tomato plants results in enhanced bacterial disease resistance”. While developing tomatoes with a 30-fold increase in PPO expression may have contributed to increased bacterial resistance in this case, the role of PPO in different plants varies widely. Some plants have lots of PPO, some have none at all. Even amongst the 5,000+ apple varieties in the world, there are plenty that have even less PPO than Arctic® apples, though by and large, they are either inedible or not suited for production.
And, while greater PPO expression may have resulted in increased bacterial resistance in these tomatoes, that does not mean higher PPO levels in fruit being grown for commercial purposes (tomatoes or otherwise) will always result in increased diseases resistance. In fact, increased PPO levels in apples have been shown to do nothing more than make that apple variety more susceptible to browning!
Arctic® apples have been grown in field trials alongside their conventional counterparts for over twelve years now, in a manner consistent with standard commercial apple cultivation. These trials have been managed by experienced, professional, third party field managers responsible for collecting objective data on the behavior of Arctic® apples. Data on agronomic performance, including pest and disease resistance, clearly show that Arctic® apples perform exactly like their conventional counterparts when grown under the same conditions.
It is important to note that, in order to receive commercial approval from the USDA, it was incumbent on OSF to unequivocally demonstrate that Arctic® apples are just the same as their conventional counterparts except for the claimed trait of nonbrowning. The evidence demonstrating this is publicly available in our petition to the USDA in which we applied for deregulation. And, in the USDA’s detailed Environmental Assessment, they agree that “the agronomic inputs required to cultivate [Arctic® apples] are functionally equivalent to those required for conventional apples”.
Therefore, it is clear that Arctic® apples will not lead to any additional pesticide usage, and as we’ve said all along – Arctic® apples are the same as their conventional counterparts; the only difference is when you bite, slice or bruise the fruit!