Genetically modified non-browning apples and more durable potatoes will soon be available in your local grocery store, but some major food producers and already turning their back on the so-called Franken foods.

Health Canada has approved two varieties of Arctic apples from B.C.’s Okanagan Specialty Fruits, and the Food and Drug Administration just approved six potatoes varieties form the Boise, Idaho-based J. R. Simplot Co. 

Both agencies insist that the produce, grown from seeds engineered in a lab, pose no health risks, and are as healthy as their non-modified counterparts. But that hasn’t stopped a major pushback from heavyweights in the food industry.

Fast food giant McDonald’s, one of the biggest purchasers of potatoes in the U.S., says its policy is not to source GMO potatoes – and it won’t buy the new varieties.

French fry and potato foods suppliers McCain and ConAgra are echoing that sentiment, saying the people who buy their potato products don’t want the modified spuds.

"All Lamb Weston frozen potato products are made with non-GMO potatoes, in line with customer demand," ConAgra told the Associated Press.

Smoke and mirrors

But while these companies are making public denouncements, marketing experts say the hard-line stance is much more about public perception than corporate policy.

“Many Canadians are concerned about genetically modified foods because they think they're a risk to themselves and the health and the environment and so these brands are responding to that consumer sentiment -- that the consumer is always right,” said University of British Columbia marketing professor Dave Hardisty.

The consumer behavior expert says the majority of foods sold in Canadian grocery stores – 70 per cent – are already genetically modified, and that those items are not required to be labelled.

“So many Canadians are already eating genetically modified foods and don’t even realize it,” he said.

B.C. apple growers have already sounded the alarm over a lack of labelling on the new engineered apples.

Fred Steele of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association said he’s concerned the apple industry as a whole could take a hit if consumers aren’t able to make an informed choice in grocery stores.

“It’s become an emotional issue,” he told CTV News. "If this thing works in the marketplace, I'm fine with that, but I am not fine with the situation of uncertainty."

The B.C. company behind the GMO apple says they understand consumer concerns, but say there’s no reason for them.

"All we've done is turn a gene off, so there's no foreign proteins. That apple is the apple you've always eaten," said Okanagan Specialty Fruits President Neal Carter.

"I understand people's concerns but I also know that those people probably haven't spent much time to see what was done to assess the science."


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