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Beach Beat: Del Monte’s pretty in pink with OK for GMO


You’ve gotta give it to those marketing magicians at Del Monte Fresh Produce Co. Back in the 1990s when they introduced the phrase “golden extra sweet pineapple” they stated the obvious with fabulous flair. I can’t help myself. I have to write down the entire phrase when drafting a shopping list.

That brilliance will no doubt be eclipsed when the multi-national company begins marketing its genetically engineered, pink-fleshed version of the fruit with the tagline “extra sweet pink flesh pineapple” — as approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

beach-beatYep, that’s right, the FDA has signed off on Del Monte’s “EF2-114 pineapple” aka the “extra sweet pink flesh pineapple.”

The gestation period for the agency’s approval was 22 months, with the Coral Gables, FL, company having submitted its request for FDA evaluation in February 2015. That term will no doubt generate a lot of action in the comment section below about how our government hasn’t sufficiently researched the potential impact of the lab-modified plants.

But the people behind the golden Del Monte shield have been working on the pink version of their money-maker since at least 2005, no doubt with government regulations in one hand and their test tubes in the other. Regardless where you come down in the GMO debate, you’ve gotta believe corporations are at least as familiar with the danger zones GMO regulators will be watching as they are with the tax code.

In 2011 the government in Costa Rica, where the GMO pink pineapple has been in the R&D stages, gave Del Monte permission to expand its plantings of the fruit there.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture OK’d the genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically engineered tropical fruit in January 2013.

At that time I was reporting for The Packer, a trade newspaper covering fresh produce and Del Monte’s marketing vice president Dennis Cristou told me the pink-fleshed pineapple was in a testing phase and years away from U.S. grocery store shelves.

He told me the variety had a working name of “Rosé” and I remember thinking that ad campaign could write itself.

A Rosé by any other name, though — be it EF2-114 or “extra sweet pink flesh” — is still genetically modified in the eyes of many consumers, and I imagine the pleasantly pink pineapples will face the same opposition that the non-browning Arctic Apple and recently approved “PPO_KO,” “X17” and “Y9” non-browning potatoes have seen on comment sections across the World Wide Web.

So at the risk of stirring the pot, here’s a bit of what we know about the “extra sweet pink flesh pineapple” from Del Monte Fresh Produce Co., which is still likely years away from a grocery store near you. If you want to read the scientific terms used by the feds, click on the links in the following paragraphs.

Del Monte’s in the pink, according to the FDA and USDA

Del Monte Fresh Produce Co. has not release photographs of the GMO pink-fleshed pineapple. Photo illustration

Del Monte Fresh Produce Co. has not released photographs of the GMO pink-fleshed pineapple. Photo illustration

FDA scientists concluded that there were no unresolved safety or regulatory issues under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for the genetically engineered pink flesh pineapple.

Although Del Monte will market this pineapple in the United States, the company is not planning on growing it here.

The new pineapple has been genetically engineered — with tangerine genes — to produce lower levels of the enzymes already in conventional pineapple that convert the pink pigment lycopene to the yellow pigment beta carotene.

“Lycopene is the pigment that makes tomatoes red and watermelons pink, so it is commonly and safely consumed,” according to FDA’s letter.

Fruit from the Del Monte Rosé pineapple cultivar does not have the ability to propagate and persist in the environment once they have been harvested.

In documents filed with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Del Monte reported 65 percent of the pineapple it imports to the U.S. is sold to the fresh sector. About 15 percent goes to fresh-cut, with the balance sent to juice and frozen food processors.

The new genetically modified pink variety is eventually planned to be sold in the same channels and at about the same percentages, according to the documents filed with USDA.

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