FDA approves genetically engineered apples and potatoes

The Food and Drug Administration has approved two varieties of genetically engineered apples and six kinds of genetically engineered potatoes for consumption.

The agency said Thursday that the apples made by the Canadian company Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. and the potatoes from J.R. Simplot Co., based in Boise, Idaho, are as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts.

Okanagan’s Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples, known as Arctic Apples, have been genetically engineered to resist browning when cut and bruised. The company has reduced the levels of enzymes that cause browning.

Simplot’s potatoes — Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank and Atlantic — known by their trade name “Innate” have been genetically engineered to reduce black spot bruising. In addition to lower levels of enzymes, the company has engineered the potatoes to produce less acrylamide by lowering the levels of an amino acid called asparagine and the levels of reducing sugars.

“Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, and has been found to be carcinogenic in rodents,” the FDA said.    

Foods derived from genetically engineered plants are required by the agency to meet the same legal and safety standards as foods derived from traditional plant breeding methods.

But the Arctic Apples have already drawn criticism from food safety groups.

After the Department of Agriculture announced plans last month to approve the fruit, the Center for Food and Safety said the apples will find their way into non-GE fruit slicers, baby foods or apple sauces — products that are consumed by children who are already at an increased risk for any adverse health affects.