Cross pollination concerns? Don’t bee-lieve it!

A concern some people have about crops produced through biotechnology is the potential for cross-pollination of these crops with conventional or organic crops. In our case, bees pollinate Apple blossoms; so some wonder what’s to stop the bees from carrying pollen from Arctic® apples to other orchards? A very good question, but luckily, we have a very good answer!

Apple blossoms must be pollinated through the transfer of pollen by bees. Bees carry an apple flower’s male reproductive cells to the “stigma”, the female reproductive part of a flower. Since orchards often have thousands of trees, LOTS of bees are needed! A well-regarded paper from North Carolina State University reports that over 500,000 honeybee hives are used to pollinate apple orchards in North America alone. A single hive, like one of the two “Super” hives from the Carter orchard (pictured below), can have as many as 30,000 bees!

Super Beehives

The potential for these countless bees to physically transport pollen from an Arctic® orchard to a different orchard is incredibly unlikely as bees stay very close to their hive where ample food is present (such as in an orchard in bloom). Additionally, dense orchard plantings and buffer rows make it very difficult for bees to maneuver far, so the risk of bees carrying pollen far enough to be an issue is almost nonexistent. But, if a bee did somehow manage to carry Arctic® pollen to another orchard, what would happen?

As we outline in our FAQ section, on the outside chance that a conventional/organic apple was pollinated by Arctic® pollen, Arctic® genes would only be present in some of the resulting apples’ seeds – not in the fruits’ skin or flesh. Apple trees are produced by grafting, not from seeds. But even if someone were to attempt to grow a tree using these seeds, the “Arctic” trait wouldn’t be expressed. So, the cross-pollination concern can be put to rest!

About Joel Brooks

Growing up in the Okanagan, Joel had the opportunity to experience apple growing first hand, a background that lead him to his role as Product & Special Projects Manager. Joel feels privileged to work with such great people towards a goal that’s so easy to get behind – helping people to eat more apples.

Comments

  1. Darren Sweet

    First you say “Arctic genes would only be present in some of the resulting apples’ seeds”, and yet the apple is not modified? Bees can and will travel for a few miles, should they locate a great food source, they come back and tell other bees, now we have thousands of bees flying a few miles to feed.

    There is NO chance, other than a multi-mile barrier, that the neighhboring apple crops will not be modified by your GMO pollen.

    What you are doing is just as bad as intentionally bringing Pine Beetles to the Okanagan.

    • Joel

      Darren, the point being made is that – should cross-pollination occur – the fruit itself would not be affected. This is a key distinction since the apple’s flesh is what’s consumed, whereas seeds are not typically eaten, planted or used in any way. 

      Consider that different varieties of trees are planted right next to each other all the time. If a Gala tree is cross-pollinated by a Fuji tree, the Gala tree’s apples do not become Fujis, though some of their seeds may contain the Fuji’s genetic material. Likewise, Arctic apples would not turn other apple varieties into Arctic apples.

      There’s no “fake science” here – just modern day tools continuing the age old tradition of improving the food we eat!

      • Robert Wire

        It must be nice playing God. The arrogance you and all biotech companies have is astounding. What you don’t get is that no one wants this Frankenapple. We want to know when the fruit is rotting. There are cycles of nature that you conveniently want to avoid. Even if all you say is true which I doubt, we are not interested. GMO’s are a big issue and we know you and other biotechs have big pockets to share with corrupt politicians and regulators.The majority of US citizens would opt out of eating any GMO products if they were armed with the knowledge. We all tell as many people every day about the inherent dangers of “fooling Mother Nature.” 

        I only have contempt for you. You are destroying our food supply with your “patented” garbage. Oh wait, it’s patented because it’s novel, yet it’s “substantially” the same. Which is it? It can’t be both.

        • Joel

          Robert, we appreciate you are passionate about a safe, healthy food supply, so are we! But, perhaps you should hold off on the contempt, and instead seek to learn about us and our product passing judgement?

          Addressing a few of your comments:

          -Arctic apples rot just the same as any other apple. Additionally, because they don’t show superficial discoloration but DO show meaningful damage (discoloration from fungi/bacteria/rot) they actually make it EASIER to judge the fruit’s true quality.

          -We are a small, grower-led company with 7 employees. Arctic apples are our first commercial product, and will have taken nearly two decades to bring from conception to the market because the regulatory system is so rigorous.

          -We have done a great deal of consumer research, which has demonstrated with remarkable consistency that the majority of apple eaters are interested in Arctic apples. This number significantly increases the more they learn about the science behind them.

  2. Kerrie

    I planted tomato plants close to a hydrangea bush, they share the same bed. Are there any dangers of the tomatoes becoming poisonous?

    • Jessica Brady

      Hello Kerrie! That is a very interesting question! Hydrangeas do contain cyanogenic glycosides which is a poisonous substance, but we weren’t able to find any information on whether this might raise a concern with cross pollination. I would recommend speaking to a horticulturalist or master gardener for more insight into this concern.
      Thank you!

      Jessica

  3. KMA

    Wrong. I juice apples. Seeds and all. These gene modified seeds would be injested by people like myself and THIS is a problem. There are no safeguards other than a multi-mile barrier between orchards. That is no safeguard at all.

  4. Joel Brooks

    Hi KMA,

    Just like the fruit itself, Arctic apple seeds have been found to be just as safe as their conventional counterparts following rigorous regulatory review. You are likely aware, but if you do consume a significant number of apple seeds, one thing you may want to careful of is the natural levels of cyanide in all apple seeds, however.. Healthline suggests the average adult would need to consume ~200 seeds for a lethal dose (http://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/are-apple-seeds-poisonous#how-cyanide-works2), so no need to worry about just a few, though.

    Cheers,
    Joel

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