- The first genetically modified apples to be sold in the U.S. will be appearing in select Midwestern stores in February, according to Capital Press. About 500 40-pound boxes of sliced apples from Okanagan Specialty Fruits of Summerland, B.C. will be sold in grab-and-go pouch bags in stores to be determined.
- The Arctic brand sliced and packaged Golden Delicious apples were grown with reduced enzyme polyphenol oxidase to prevent browning when they are sliced, bitten or bruised, with no flavor-altering additives added.
- These apples will be only be labeled as GMO through a QR code label, the sort of thing that the new federal GMO labeling law approved as an acceptable label.
The most controversial provision of the GMO labeling law that was signed by President Obama last year was the approved methods. From what is in the law, manufacturers can use an on-package statement, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved symbol or a QR code printed on the product label that directs consumers to a website containing the necessary information. Opponents of QR codes say that they discriminate against consumers who don't have access to smartphones, and they hide important information.
USDA and stakeholders have until 2018 to work out exactly how the labeling information needs to be presented. In the meantime, with no requirements, food companies have no regulations to follow.
While QR codes are beginning to appear more on food labels now through initiatives like SmartLabel, they still aren't universal. It's unclear whether consumers would know to scan the code on the apple packages to find more information.
There could be a huge backlash from consumers who aren’t told upfront that the apples are GMO, as there is a popular opinion that they aren’t as healthy. A Pew Research survey conducted last year found that 37% of adults feel eating GM foods is generally safe, while 57% say they believe it is unsafe.
Those numbers were large enough for the Washington apple industry to fight against approval of GMO apples because of the negative public perception that exists, fearing it could hurt overall apple sales.
This may prove a good test of whether QR code labeling is effective for GMO products. It could also give policymakers and stakeholders more data to shape the still-to-be-determined labeling regulations so they best serve consumers.