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!
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!