11/12/2013 03:06 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

'Arctic Apple' Genetically Engineered In B.C. Prompts Protest

VANCOUVER - Groups against genetically engineered apples that don't brown say they're staging a series of events in British Columbia and Alberta to raise awareness about the product being hailed as a scientific breakthrough.

The Society for a GE-Free BC and the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network say the United States is one step closer to approving the genetically modified apple after a call for public comment on a draft environmental assessment for the product.

The so-called Arctic Apple was created by B.C. biotechnology company Okanagan Specialty Fruits, but opponents say organic growers are concerned about GM contamination while fearing consumers' negative perception of the apple will lead to a decline in apple sales generally.

The groups say the GM apple is also being reviewed by the Canadian government but there won't be any public consultations and Ottawa will not release any environmental assessments or other documents before it makes its final decision.

But the apple's creator says browning has economic costs and it has already engineered Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples, with Fuji and Gala varieties next in line.

The groups opposed to the apple say they'll begin a 32-event speakers' tour in Courtenay, B.C., on Thursday, featuring a former Agriculture Canada researcher and an ex-Health Canada scientific evaluator.

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