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Arctic Apple Takes a Bite Out of Pseudo-Science

After years of research and extensive field testing, the Okanagan’s own GMO apple is going to the big leagues.

Genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) are routinely attacked by urban organic activists in spite of the fact that not a single ailment has ever been linked to this technology. And now, as a testament to the baselessness of such attacks, the rights to the GMO Arctic Apple have been purchased by the U.S. biotechnology company Intrexon (owners of GMO salmon), for the princely sum of $41 million.

This acquisition stands as a textbook example of how to stand up to organic activists.

Rather than compromise, Neal Carter, the Summerland developer of this non-browning apple, stood firm as organic activists claimed falsely that a GMO apple threatened organic orchards. The only question that remains is whether the organic industry will take former U.S. president Bill Clinton’s advice from 1997 and include the Arctic Apple in organic production.

Unlike some GMO crops that incorporate pesticides, the GMO Arctic Apple could, in theory, be grown under organic management with composted fertilizer and holistic pest management, according to the original version of the world’s most-widely adopted organic standards – the USDA National Organic Program.

I grew up on an organic farm and worked for five years as a USDA-contract organic inspector. I left when the organic movement became a bureaucratic scam designed to propel an anti-GMO, anti-scientific political agenda.

I still support the true principles of organic production. But with three-quarters of organic food being imported from countries like China, and with 46 per cent testing positive for prohibited pesticides — pesticides that do cause harm and can lead to death — it has long been my position that the organic industry has a massive problem on its hands, a problem that has nothing whatsoever to do with GMOs.

Organic crops are not tested. Record-keeping and record-checking are all that’s required to get a crop certified.

Imagine if we quit testing athletes at the Olympics. Do you think maybe athletes might take this as a licence to cheat? This is how the anti-GMO organic industry runs.

No wonder multimillionaire organic execs like John Mackey (Whole Foods) and tax-subsidized activists like Ronnie Cummins (The Organic Consumers Association) pretend GMOs threaten organic farms. By maligning this field of science, they’ve carved-out a sizable niche for themselves, giving consumers the false hope that they’re eating a better diet when they purchase premium-priced, certified-organic food, all based on the fact that it’s non-GMO.

The reality is quite the opposite.

The lack of organic field testing not only results in 46 per cent of organic food testing positive for prohibited pesticides, but also in un-composted fecal matter making its way into the organic food chain.

As Carter and his new corporate masters at Intrexon will surely attest, this causes serious illness, and can lead to death. How is this “organic” exactly?

GMO Golden Rice, papaya and brinjal are all examples of non-proprietary (no patent) GMO crops that could be grown organically. The time is long overdue for the organic industry to follow Clinton’s advice and embrace GMOs. And what better place to start than with Carter’s GMO Arctic Apple?

By standing up to organic “pseudo-science and naysaying fearmongers,” Carter proves that when the enemies of science can’t beat you, they might someday be forced to join you.

This article first appeared in the Kelowna Daily Courier. Mischa Popoff has no financial interest in the Arctic Apple or Intrexon.

Mischa Popoff

• B.A. (Hons.) U. of S. and IOIA Advanced Organic Inspector (USDA) • Policy Advisor for The Heartland Institute • Research Associate for The Frontier Centre for Public Policy • Is It Organic?". For public speaking engagements or consultations, please contact my agency, The National Speakers Bureau or Sawa Matsumura at

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Canada’s organic free-for-all

You’re reaching for a bag of apples at the grocery store and you notice a smaller bag at more than double the price labeled “Canada Organic.” Should you pay more for less in the interests of feeding your family purer, more nutritious food?

Try to imagine being the only team at the Olympics that doesn’t have to have its athletes tested for performance-enhancing drugs. Sound absurd? Welcome to the Canadian organic sector.

Canada is the only G20 nation that fails to include testing in its organic regulations. Testing is only mentioned once, in passing, in the preamble, where it is stipulated that Canada’s organic standard “does not purport to address all the safety aspects associated with its use.” This thereby absolves the CFIA of any culpability should someone try to test organic product only to have a test tube blow up in his face.

Not that anyone will ever bother doing so mind you, given that the rest of this regulation relies completely on record-keeping and record-checking. You know, the same system that failed to keep Bernie Madoff in check.

The American standard is clear on organic testing. If pesticide residues are found, the certifying agent “must promptly report such data.” And if levels “are greater than 5 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s tolerance for the specific residue detected,” then the product in question is rejected. In other words, American organic food must be at least 95 percent more pure than conventional food.

And still, Canadian officials are managing to sign agreements with American officials to have Canadian organic product accepted into the American market based only on paperwork. Same with Europe.

The most recent of these agreements is with Switzerland. It throws the gates of organic free-trade wide open in spite of the fact that the Swiss require field testing and we don’t. How could the antiseptically efficient Swiss have missed the fact that our authorities rely only on paperwork?

What’s more, the Swiss stipulate that “There should be no detectable residues of [chemically-synthesized crop protection products] on the organic produce,” while the Canadian standard goes out of its way to avoid making any such declaration, averring that “this standard cannot assure that organic products are entirely free of residues of prohibited substances and other contaminants.”

Still wondering if you should by the smaller bag of apples?

Certainly we can accept that organic products can never be “entirely free of residues.” But why doesn’t the CFIA mirror the American standard which guarantees a sizable and quantifiable reduction in prohibited substances of 95 percent or more?

Our trading partners all take steps to prevent fraud in their organic sectors. Canada by contrast invites it. And since we allow any farmer, processor, broker-trader, or certifying agency located anywhere in the world to become certified under our organic standard, we now stand poised to act as the back-door to the world’s most lucrative markets for organic food.

Foreign businesses already provide the lion’s share of the product being certified by the CFIA as “Canada Organic.” With these trade agreements in place, businesses that supply the Swiss, EU and American markets can now become certified under Canada’s standard and thereby avoid being subjected to a test to prove their organic integrity. And for some strange reason no one sees a problem with this.

Surely someone should ask Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz about this. Whatever his response, watch as “organic” businesses the world over win gold by using and abusing Canada’s bureaucratic organic standard.

So please, put down that small bag and buy the regular apples. They’re not only cheaper and every bit as pure and nutritious, but there’s actually a better chance they’re Canadian!

Mischa Popoff is a former organic farmer and Advanced Organic Farm and Process Inspector. He’s a Policy Advisor for The Heartland Institute, a Research Associate for The Frontier Centre for Public Policy, and is the author of “Is it Organic?” which you can preview at

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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