Why Dipping Apples in Honey for Rosh Hashanah Could Be Different Next Year
By Rich Bindell
It’s a bit of a strange holiday season coming up for American Jews. For starters, due to the unique timing of the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars, the first night of Chanukah falls right on Thanksgiving. (You’ve heard about the Menurkey, right?) But first, immediately after trying to squeeze the last bits of summer out of Labor Day weekend, and in the middle of dealing with various and sundry back-to-school traditions, we also find ourselves suddenly staring Rosh Hashanah straight in the face, as it arrived awfully early this year.
Last night at sundown, Jewish people around the world began observing the holiday with my favorite tradition—one that honors my minimum level of participation: the dipping of apples in honey. This symbolizes the wish we have for a sweet, healthy and joyous new year for everyone. But dipping my apples last night had me a bit concerned for next year…
By next year, something could be sadly amiss with our annual tradition. Our apples could be genetically engineered and our honey could be somewhat endangered.
The biotech industry has been aggressively pushing for genetically engineered everything lately, and that includes apples. In an effort to reduce the chances of getting a bruised or brown apple, biotech has introduced a GE apple, referred to as the Arctic apple.
Since 2003, Okanagan Specialty Foods has been in the field-trial stage of testing a genetic modification process that involves inserting bacterial and viral DNA into apples to prevent bruising and browning, and they’ve been in the regulatory review process by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for some time already.
This could actually hurt traditional and organic apple growers due to possible contamination from the spread of pollen from GE apples. There could even be cross-contamination at the processing level. In other words, apples, as we know them, could change dramatically and not by our own choice, particularly if these products are not labeled.
As for our honey, it looks as if heavy use of pesticides and other agrichemicals have been major contributors to the destruction of bee colonies throughout the United States. We’re losing our bees, which means we could lose our honey. We’re actually threatening the simple but miraculous process of pollination due to our own hubris: thinking that we can improve upon the abilities of Mother Nature, using poisonous chemicals to “protect” crops.
The main idea of the Jewish New Year is to take stock in ourselves—spiritually, emotionally, and physically—in order to accept that as human beings we are intrinsically flawed. We acknowledge our wrongdoing while simultaneously striving to move forward in improving and enriching ourselves for the purposes of a fulfilling life.
So, our apples get brown and bruised sometimes. But are these imperfections worth the risks of genetically engineering our apple supply? First and foremost, apples are a simple fruit that are symbolic of good health. (There’s a reason we don’t dip cheeseburgers in honey.) They don’t need improvement. They just need family and friends for sharing.