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Arctic Crisp apple approved

 
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The United States government has approved for market the Arctic Crisp apple. This is a genetically engineered apple whose flesh will not turn brown when bruised or when slices are exposed to air. This is achieved through gene silencing, they turned off the gene that is responsible for he chemcal process that urns the apple brown.
"Gene silencing" was a new term for me, so I did some googling, naturally. One of the things about his "technology" that I find disturbing is this: if a scion of a plant with a silenced gene is grafted onto a plant without the gene silencing, the gene silencing will be expressed systemically throughout he plant.

To the best of my understanding, this is something that has never been true with plant grafting before. Grafting Macintosh scion wood onto crab apple root stock would not systemically convert the crab apple to express the macintosh genetics.

Whether grafting Arctic Crisp onto an apple tree that has another variety already growing will result in this non-browing genetic passing on to the other fruit I do not know. And I have to wonder whether anyone knows?

The gene silencing technology appears to have some amazing positive potential for medical applications. But there are very substantial regulatory hurdles and safety measures on that track.

Here, it appears that a purely cosmetic objective has been cleared for release into the world.

Anybody in the permie hive know more about this ? And please, I know this is a really hot button topic for lots of people, but let's remember to be nice and keep the discussion civil.
 
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Where did you read about the scion interacting that way with the rootstock?

I write about GM crops with some regularity on my site
, and so far I've written two pieces about the arctic apple you can check out.

It's not the worst crop I've seen by far: it's being called "genetic engineering lite." There are certainly some problems that may arise down the road (ie. nontarget genes being affected by the RNA interference), but my biggest objection to the two apples they've developed it that they're for the pre-sliced apple market, which is capitalism at it's absolute worst.
 
Peter Ellis
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http://hannonlab.cshl.edu/publications/silencing.pdf

Link to. 2001 article that provides an overview of the state f the subject at that time. It clearly refers to work demonstrating that the gene silencing is carried through the entire plant from a graft.

Calling this RNAi stuff genetic engineering "lite" suggests to me that either I am reading way too much into what I have seen, or either other people are not reading into it enpugh - or the business side is ahead of the curve in trying to downplay the significance and keep it under the opposition's radar.

I am also bothered by the fact that this has been approved for a trivial purpose - it is a product without a market. Yet it has been released into the world.
 
pollinator
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I read about this.

Riot?

I say riot.

But really? What's to do? These guys and gals promise the world and then blindfold you and then stab ya in the back.
 
Peter Ellis
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Interesting. "Balanced" press coverage speaks of how this is just a natural process that has been going on in living organisms forever. But Harvard and MIT have formed The Broad Institute and they refer to it as Revolutionary technology.

So when you are speaking to the masses and want to play down the significance of this stuff, you call it "genetic engineering lite" and say it is just a natural process. But when you are promoting your research program and looking for funding, it's revolutionary?

And I am concerned by the casual way in which one phd quoted said apples are not commercially produced by seed, so not to be concerned about this genome spreading. I am no phd, no botanist, no genetic engineer, and one of the first things I found when I started researching this issue was an article from 2001 that explicitly stated that research had established that the gene silencing was expressed systemically throughout the plant onto which the engineered scion was grafted. That research was not, as far as i know, connected to these Arctic apples, so I am not trying to say that it has been established that these apples will assert their genetics throughout any tree they are grafted to. But I am saying research establishing the possibility is at least fourteen years old.

Is this phd unaware of research I found in minutes?

The suggestion that there is no foreseeable reason to anticipate alllergy issues, well, mmm. That really does not say anything, does it?
Exactly what has been tested about these "most tested" apples? Really, serious question.

My concerns are not assuaged by assurances that refer to testing, where I do not have adequate information about what comprised that testing, nor do I have great reason to trust those who are giving me their assurances and designing and conducting these testing programs.

Individuals with far greater expertise than I possess in all aspects of this subject have expressed serious concerns regarding the adequacy of testing programs and the unpredictable unintended consequences of some of these gene manipulations. In one documented instance a GEM that was very near to final approval for release turned out to have profoundly serious negative environmental potential, but none of the testing processes in place at the time had revealed this potential at all.
So I am not swift to accept assurances. I do want to understand what has actually been addressed in the process of reviewing these organisms, in order to better judge for myself whether to be concerned - or perhaps more precisely, how much to be concerned.
 
Lynsey Nico
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Well, it is both natural/ancient and revolutionary: it has been going on organically (as has lateral gene transfer) since before bacteria, archea and eukarya diverged (3.7 BYA) as a novel evolutionary strategy to RNA disease resistance...



... but the technology to manipulate it intentionally is new and revolutionary.

I did find a paper that confirms RNAi scions pass on characteristics to rootstocks: but it doesn't negate the point about seeds: apples are not bred from the seeds at orchards (and hardly ever bred from seed). Even if the RNAi affects the rootstock, no one is propagating plant germplasm from orchard rootstocks, via seed or otherwise. I breed and bank heirloom apple germplasm, so I'm reasonably familiar with the industry.

  • Palauqui, J. C., Elmayan, T., Pollien, J. M. & Vaucheret, H. "Systemic acquired silencing: transgene-specific post-transcriptional silencing is transmitted by grafting from silenced stocks to non-silenced scions." EMBO J. 16, 4738–4745 (1997); erratum 17, 2137 (1998.)


  • And this is not at all unprecedented! Rootstocks pass on things like disease resistance, vigour, fruiting time, and even branching characteristics to scions. Though these plants are not graft chimaeras, they have fused vascular tissues, and thus share nutrition, water, and cellular information.

    Even after a lot of these things make it through approval, it is years before they are commercially cultivated, and they can be continually evaluated after approval. Many products that make it through initial review processes are recalled if they are proven to be dangerous.

    I also don't think preliminary testing programs are neccessarily adequate, but certain problems are almost impossible to anticipate, and GM crops face a whole lot of extra scrutiny, so the process is extremely costly. There could be problems down the road, but something as minor as a change in enzymatic browning probably won't cause an entire ecosystem collapse, so those problems can be dealt with if they arise.

    I think my point still stands: if there weren't a market for it (a "pre-sliced apple market," I shudder merely at typing that phrase), these crops wouldn't exist. My solution is to pretty much just keep on doing what I am doing, which is growing and breeding heirloom apples, and get more people interested in that.

    I'd rather out-compete these crops than regulate them to death: if permaculture/organic really is better, than we need to pony up and show it in the marketplace.
     
    Peter Ellis
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    Linsey, the point about seeds is exactly that seeds are not how apples are propgated. So it was disingenuous for them to say that the chaacteristic won't be carried on through seed. To then say that apples are grafted, but say nothing about the traits being carried through the rootstock systemically - well, that is further misrepresentation.
    I don't know whether grafting this stock onto a tree with three other varieties is going to pass those traits on to the other grafted varieties, but that is a real concern that I would like to see addressed.

    As to out competing versus regulation - that does not help if something gets out that contaminates your entire ndustry.

    The very real problem with these developments is that they can have unforeseen and unintended consequences. Some times it is not even that the consequences are unforeseen so much as that the people pushing a product simply do not think about possible downsides. There need to be adequate regulatory safeguards to prevent introduction of GMOs that have negative envirnmental impacts. I am skeptical as to whether they are in place.

    Another thought. Our governments are coming up with regulations that bar "invasive species", Entirely natural organisms, often quite beneficial, but not from the local area are being targeted for destruction. Yet GMO corn, that freely contaminates open pollinated corn, destroying cultivars right and left, is legally protected and the injured farmer has no right to protection from this truly invasive species.
     
    pollinator
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    As a small tree fruit grower I'm excited about this, not because I would ever grow them, but because I can now talk about how the grocery stores are selling FrankenFruits while mine are traditional. For the small local grower, this is one of the best marketing gifts that can be given by Big Ag. Heck, even USApple realized what a marketing nightmare this will be for the big boys.
     
    Lynsey Nico
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    Peter Ellis wrote:Linsey [sic], the point about seeds is exactly that seeds are not how apples are propgated. So it was disingenuous for them to say that the chaacteristic won't be carried on through seed. To then say that apples are grafted, but say nothing about the traits being carried through the rootstock systemically - well, that is further misrepresentation.
    I don't know whether grafting this stock onto a tree with three other varieties is going to pass those traits on to the other grafted varieties, but that is a real concern that I would like to see addressed.

    As to out competing versus regulation - that does not help if something gets out that contaminates your entire ndustry.

    The very real problem with these developments is that they can have unforeseen and unintended consequences. Some times it is not even that the consequences are unforeseen so much as that the people pushing a product simply do not think about possible downsides. There need to be adequate regulatory safeguards to prevent introduction of GMOs that have negative envirnmental impacts. I am skeptical as to whether they are in place.

    Another thought. Our governments are coming up with regulations that bar "invasive species", Entirely natural organisms, often quite beneficial, but not from the local area are being targeted for destruction. Yet GMO corn, that freely contaminates open pollinated corn, destroying cultivars right and left, is legally protected and the injured farmer has no right to protection from this truly invasive species.



    You are talking about gene flow, I assume. I think that there are definitely problems with gene flow when it comes to wind-pollinated cereal crops, and GM tree crops whose pollen can travel thousands of kilometers, but I'll say it again: apples are a different beast.

    I am at no risk from these apples, and neither is any other apple breeding program. Apples aren't really bred from chance seedlings in the modern orchard industry: I still plant from seed, but that's because it's my hobby. If a cross between two cultivars is to be obtained, it is manually pollinated and kept under sterile conditions outside of an orchard context. Seed isn't obtained from orchards, but from breeding programs. Sometimes strategies derived from modern genetic science--like Marker Assisted Selection --are used in selecting seedlings. The ROSbreed program is doing just this. But again, apples are not bred open-pollinated at the site of fruit production; and rootstocks, by their very nature, and not used to produce reproductive parts!

    Peter Ellis wrote: To the best of my understanding, this is something that has never been true with plant grafting before. Grafting Macintosh scion wood onto crab apple root stock would not systemically convert the crab apple to express the macintosh genetics.



    You are wrong about that, as I stated above. Though the rootstock/scion won't completely convert to one or the other, traits like disease resistance, dwarfing habit, flowering times, and branching patterns can be expressed between scion and rootstock: this is one of the main benefits of grafting. I don't see how emphasising that the scion interacts with the rootstock is necessary, or a misrepresentation: if you are a person who knows something about fruit cultivation, this is a given. The general public doesn't know what 'scion' and 'rootstock' mean, so I can't see why this information would be in any press releases about the plants.

     
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