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Who is Okanagan Specialty Fruits® (OSF) and what do they do?

Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. is a vertically integrated company specializing in the development, growing, processing, and marketing of novel tree fruit varieties developed through bioengineering. Based in Summerland, British Columbia, Canada, OSF was founded in 1996 and acquired by an affiliate of Third Security, LLC in 2020. OSF’s flagship product is its Arctic® apples varieties that stay orchard-fresh longer and provide a sustainable solution to less food waste and improved apple consumption.

What are Arctic Apples and How Do They Stay Fresher, Longer?

Arctic apples are the same popular varieties you already know and love, with one major advantage: Arctic apples stay orchard fresh longer! Most apples begin browning within minutes of the apple being bitten, sliced or bruised. This is because the damage causes an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (PPO) to react with the fruit’s phenolic content. This results in a brown-toned melanin that stains the fruit and consumes the fruit’s Vitamin C and antioxidant content. Arctic apples do not release this enzyme, allowing the apples to maintain their natural flavor, appearance and nutrition.

Why Use Genetic Engineering Instead of Other Crop Improvement Techniques?

Techniques such as selective breeding have been used for many years to improve the crops we grow, yet genetic engineering can often give far greater precision and efficiency than other approaches. Especially if there is one trait in particular you are looking to introduce into a crop, genetic engineering can specifically target that trait.

How Does a Genetically Engineered Crop Get Approved in the U.S.?

Genetically engineered crops must be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) before they can be freely grown and consumed in the United States. The USDA requires evidence demonstrating that the biotech crop does not pose a plant or disease threat. The process involves rigorous testing and multiple opportunities for the public to submit comments before the review can be completed.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for the safety of food and animal feed. Though their review of new biotech crops is usually voluntary, it is standard procedure for the companies seeking USDA approval to also engage in an FDA review.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which oversees the safety of pesticides in the U.S., is also involved in biotech crop regulation in cases where the product relates to pest management, such as herbicide-tolerant crops.

How Does a Genetically Engineered Crop Get Approved in Canada?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada (HC) are both involved in the regulation of genetically engineered crops in Canada. The CFIA’s review focuses primarily on the potential impact of an environmental release of GMOs, requiring significant evidence demonstrating that the crop under review does not present any unique environmental risks. Health Canada ensures that a proper safety assessment is carried out prior to approval and the results sufficiently address potential concerns.