Snapping the habit of snap judgments

The first quarter or 2015 may have just ended, but it’s one that won’t soon be forgotten by OSF. In the wake of the USDA’s approval of Arctic® apples and our company’s acquisition by Intrexon in February, the milestones kept coming with Canadian and FDA approval on March 20. For a small team like ours, getting so much attention – including from major media outlets like WSJ, NY Times & Globe and Mail – was nothing short of overwhelming.

It’s truly been an amazing couple of months, and you wouldn’t believe the number of growers who want to plant, retailers who want to sell, and consumers who want to eat Arctic® apples that have reached out to us. And yet, the unfortunate truth is that many supporters feel pressure to keep their excitement on the down low, as they don’t want the headache of becoming part of the polarized discussion of “GMOs”.Sky is Falling Headline

And, while we are thrilled with all the media interest, it’s frustrating to still spend so much time defending false claims about Arctic® apples just because they were developed with the help of biotechnology. We would much rather focus on how nonbrowning apples can help boost apple consumption, and reduce waste while doing so.

At the end of the day, Arctic® apples are just like any other apple – they simply have less of the specific enzyme that initiates browning when an apple is bitten, sliced or bruised. You don’t even have to take our word for it; the USDA, FDA, CFIA and Health Canada concluded just that after rigorously reviewing them for years. And, even this process was preceded by many years of development, data collection and testing!

This leads us to recall a March media highlight; the cover of National Geographic’s March issue was emblazoned with “The War On Science”. The story highlights how numerous areas of near-scientific consensus remain puzzlingly controversial in the public sphere, and specifically mentions GMOs as one such topic. In fact, GMOs are perhaps the best example of all.

The results of a recent Pew poll surveyed both the public and scientists from the American Association for the Advancement of Science to compare their views on a number of issues. They found that there was no wider opinion gap than on the safety of GMOs.

Why is that the case? An in-depth article by Vox identified three key reasons:

  1. The public doesn’t know much about GMOs
  2. Anti-GMO activists have successfully raised doubts about GMOs
  3. GMOs are often associated with large, unpopular corporations

Clearly, not the most compelling reasons to oppose value-added foods acknowledged as safe by all reputable science and health bodies, especially as their tangible benefits have led to biotech crops becoming the fastest adopted crop technology in history…

And while this post may seem like a bit of a lament, the point is this – it is typical human nature to be skeptical, or even fearful, about what we don’t understand. However, the majority of those who know the most about GMOs – the scientists who devote their lives to studying them – have no safety concerns for approved crops. We have rigorous regulatory systems in place. And, the majority of consumers who are exposed to reputable information on GMOs will understand they are just as safe and healthy as any other food.

This educational outreach is an arduous process. But with continued passionate efforts, those of us who know the potential of biotechnology will bring exciting innovations to both those who grow our world’s food, and those who consume it!

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.

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