The USDA has rubber-stamped two more GMOs – the very first GMO apple and corn that’s designed as fuel, not food.
Imagine a food source that’s not actually food. "Enogen," created by Syngenta, has an enzyme that makes it easier to break down corn into biofuel, solving one of the more expensive problems involved in turning corn into ethanol. At least a third of US corn is now used for fuel.
Until now, the ethanol industry had to buy enzymes separately to break corn down into fuel. That can cost $350,000 a year for a medium-sized plant, not including the equipment. Since corn breaks down so easily, the process is less energy-intensive, lowering the industry’s carbon footprint.
Also, only about 15% of corn fed into an ethanol plant has to be Enogen for the enzyme to do its job.
And it’s a boon to farmers because they can get 2-6% more ethanol per bushel of corn. When ethanol plants want to use Enogen they sign a contract with Syngenta agreeing to pay farmers an extra 40 cents per bushel. In return, farmers agree to keep Enogen out of the food supply by planting, storing and shipping Enogen separately from other corn. If it got into corn that’s destined for tortilla chips, for example, they would be pretty mushy. Six ethanol plants have already signed on.
Instead of charging farmers premium prices for Enogen seed, it requires them to plant other Syngenta GMOs on additional acres.
Farmers Sue Syngenta
Meanwhile, Syngenta faces more than 360 lawsuits from farmers in 20 states and hundreds more will soon follow.
The dispute centers around another GMO corn seed, "Agrisure Viptera," which contains a protein that kills corn-eating insects. China, which is importing increasing volumes of US corn, insists on testing GMO crops first. Because it hasn’t approved this particular GMO, it rejected some 130 million bushels of the corn when it was detected. In fact, China has been boycotting US corn and corn products generally.
Grain exporters are also filing suit, such as Cargill and ADM, claiming losses of $90 million.
"Knowing that contamination of Viptera corn with the rest of the US corn supply was inevitable, Syngenta nevertheless gambled farmers’ livelihoods," says one lawsuit, according to The Wichita Eagle.
Ignoring 73,000 comments against the Arctic Apple, the USDA approved Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ GMO. The apple is engineered not to turn brown after being sliced.
This is the first time a GMO has been approved for a purely cosmetic issue. It will also bring GMOs right into the produce aisle at your supermarket – until now, they have mostly been in packaged foods. And of course, these Golden Delicious and Granny apples won’t be labeled!
Because it doesn’t brown, people will likely think a sliced apple is still ripe, when it’s actually rotting.
A new technology called RNA interference silences the gene that causes apples to turn brown. "The silenced gene is heavily involved in a plant’s natural defense against pests and pathogens, which could lead to apple trees that are less healthy and rely on more chemical treatments to ward off pests and disease," says Food & Water Watch. Apples already test positive for 42 pesticides unless they are organic, says Pesticide Action Network.
"Recent research shows that dsRNAs can transfer from plants to humans and other animals through food. The biotech industry has always claimed that genetically engineered DNA or RNA is destroyed by human digestion, eliminating the danger of these mutant organisms damaging human genes or human health. But many biotech scientists say otherwise. They point to evidence that the dsRNA present in food survive digestion in the stomach and intestines and actually enter the bloodstream and tissues of the body, where it can influence the functioning of the eater’s cells," says Organic Consumer Association (OCA).
Even the US apple industry has voiced opposition to the GMO, concerned about its impact on the industry.
"Consumers will once again be guinea pigs for the biotech industry’s untested, potentially dangerous technology. And we risk being exposed to an even greater number of pesticides.
Just so we can have apples that never turn brown," says Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of OCA.
GMO apples will most likely be sold to restaurants and institutions, and could end up in juice, baby foods, and apple sauce.
Of course, now that Okanagan Specialty Fruits has gotten this first GMO approved, they plan to introduce GMO peaches, cherries and pears soon! YUM.
GMO Labeling Legislation Introduced
Ironically, on the same day the Artic Apple was approved, Democrats re-introduced legislation that requires GMO foods be labeled in the US.
Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and House Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced the "Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act." It’s been re-introduced since 1999.
On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is re-introducing the Dark Act, which would outlaw mandatory GMO labels, even by the states. He calls it the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act!
Sign this petition asking Congress to label GMO foods: