As a result of a busy 2012, Okanagan Specialty Fruits has never been closer to bringing nonbrowning Arctic® apples to market!
The regulatory processes for biotech foods in both the United States and Canada are extremely rigorous and it typically takes several years (at least!) to gain approvals. This past year OSF hit major milestones in the deregulation process in both countries. 2012 was especially rewarding after all the hard work our team has delivered since the company’s founding in 1996.
In Canada, things really started to kick off on May 2nd when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) posted for public comment our Notice of Submission for the deregulation of Arctic apples. Our submission received over 3,000 comments; you can view one of our favourites here. CFIA is currently progressing with their review of the extensive evidence we have submitted as we collaborate with them through this process. We anticipate Canadian approval by 2014.
In the United States, our submission for deregulation has already been under review for a couple of years. As in Canada, a public comment period opened on July 13 when the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shared our full 163-page petition for the public to examine and comment on. They received nearly 2,000 comments. We discuss the conclusion of this comment period here. A second and final comment period is expected in early 2013, prior to USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service posting their final ruling, which is expected shortly thereafter.
What does this mean for consumers anxious to try Arctic apples? While we’ve had test blocks planted in Washington and New York for many years, deregulation will mean that growers will be able to plant Arctic apple trees just like they would any other apple trees; and there are an increasing number of growers who are very anxious to do so! It takes a few years before newly planted trees reach their full production potential, but we anticipate having small quantities of fruit available beginning in the fall of 2014.
Our efforts to communicate our story and be as transparent as possible have also kept us busy. After first creating www.arcticapples.com in November 2011, our site has now been active for over a year with nearly ten times the visits/day as when we started. Not only that, we are now active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, have at least one blog post per week, and have consistently engaged with the media – quite the feat for a company with only seven full-time employees!
Finally, I was pleased to have the opportunity this autumn to present a TEDx talk on the value of agricultural biotechnology. As a bioresource engineer who has worked around the globe for over thirty years, largely in developing regions, I have come to understand how important this technology is if we are to overcome the multitude of agricultural challenges; such as saving lives and feeding a growing population. Take a few minutes and watch the video….something to ponder as we enter this New Year!
As eventful and positive as 2012 was, we know this year will be even more exciting. We can’t wait to share with you what 2013 has in store as we continue our efforts to bring you nonbrowning Arctic apples!