A large, commercial apple grower in Washington state planted about seven acres of GMO Arctic-brand apples in May 2012 under a USDA permit, the developer of the apple says.
The company, figuring Arctic apples will gain USDA approval, wanted a head start trying them out, said Neal Carter, president of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., Summerland, B.C., developer of the apple. The first fruit from those trees should be ready in the fall of 2014 when the apples should be deregulated, Carter said.
“He wants to stay under the radar for the time being. ... He doesn’t want to put his business at risk,” Carter said in declining to identify the company.
Carter’s company has grown field trials of Arctic apples in Washington state since 2002 and in New York since 2005. Data from the trials are being used to gain U.S. and Canadian government approval of the apples.
Carter expects approval early next year and said propagation as a managed variety will occur slowly thereafter with orchards isolated to protect against cross pollination with conventional fruit.
Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF) may have 10,000 to 15,000 trees ready for planting next spring, Carter said. That’s enough for about 10 to 15 acres, he said. It could have another 5,000 to 10,000 ready if it does bench grafts and sells them as green trees, shortening the normal two-year nursery growth after budding onto rootstock, he said.
Nurseries in Washington, New York and Ontario that OSF already has relationships with will propagate the trees and sell them with a $1,500 per acre royalty going to OSF, Carter said. That’s less than the industry norm but the intent is get people to try it more than making lots of money, Carter said.
He foresees Arctic apples being packed and shipped from one packing facility in the West and one in the East.