The USDA announced that the agency would deregulate two varieties of of GMO apples developed to resist browning. This news may shock some individuals in the anti-GMO crowd. It creates the great apple dilemma.
Defining the Apple Dilemma
Granted, one could argue that browning apples are a first-world problem. Browning, after all, is an aesthetic issue rather than one of safety. But, there is a strong case for pursuing this research.
Food waste is a major problem globally. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that one-third of food produced for human consumption or about 1.3 billion tons per year, never makes it to the table.
Unsafe food aside, a lot of food ends up in landfills because of aesthetic reasons. We don’t like how it looks. We perceive it as bad, spoiled, or unpalatable. That’s why a decision by the USDA to allow nonbrowning apples is important.
The Relevance of the Anti-GMO Movement
The apple dilemma calls into question the relevancy of the anti-GMO movement. We’re not talking about pesticides here. We’re talking about an apple that looks good to eat. It’s not a bad thing.
Apples are not the only produce to benefit from GMO research. The USDA has also approved genetically-engineered potatoes that resist browning and bruising. There’s sure to be other developing biotechnology in the future.
The fact is that with each of these baby steps toward reducing food waste the anti-GMO message becomes more irrelevant and foolish. The way some people talk, you’d think genetic engineering was witchcraft. It’s not. It’s technology making our lives better.
The Problem with Food Waste
Going back to food waste, let’s consider the costs in the discussion of the apple dilemma. That food waste means wasted energy, a cruel spin on its role in climate change. The energy includes fossil fuel emissions that produce greenhouse gases.
Food waste is a complicated issue because it occurs all along the supply chain. We can’t control things like the weather. But we can influence consumer behavior to reduce food waste.
The apple dilemma pokes some big holes in arguments against GMO products. The anti-GMO crowd uses a political cause as a weapon against an issue. However, isn’t the greater issue reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a way that can also help tackle food waste? The anti-GMO issue is another example of the ugly nature of hangers-on.