Non-browning apples? B.C. company creates genetically modified apples that don’t brown

Nadine Bells
Shine On
July 16, 2012

A British Columbia company has created a genetically modified apple that doesn't brown.

The company, Okanagan Specialty Foods (OSF), hopes that their "Arctic" non-browning apples will help increase the sale of apples.

OSF founder and president Neal Carter explains in the below video that Arctic apples address one of the main criticisms of genetically modified crops, namely that they are used simply to yield more crop but have no benefit to the consumer. He claims his apples are clearly providing a benefit to consumers.

Critics at the U.S. Apple Association worry that the apples will hurt the fruit's reputation as healthy and natural, and might disguise rotten apples as looking fresh.

"An Arctic Apple will decay naturally just like any other apple, but it will not turn brown from bruising, cutting or biting — not in minutes, hours or days," Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF) defends on the official site.

Other critics ponder the taste consequences. The genetic modification that made tomatoes uniformly red has been linked to the fruit's now "tasteless" flavour.

Carter insists that deactivating the browning enzyme actually improves the apple's taste and smell.

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"Basically the good stuff in the apple gets consumed by the browning reaction and leaves behind that brown pigment, which is actually not very good-tasting stuff," he tells the Toronto Star.

"Arctic Apples, which would first be available in the Golden Delicious and Granny Smith varieties, contain a synthetic gene that sharply reduces production of polyphenol oxidase, an enzyme responsible for the browning," the New York Times reports.

The U.S. Apple Association issued the following statement in response to the new apples:

"Browning is a natural process resulting from exposure to oxygen. Apples that are naturally very low browning are already in the marketplace. In addition, lightly coating sliced or cut apples with Vitamin C-fortified apple juice delays browning prior to serving. (Most apple juice is fortified with Vitamin C.)"

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Will these apples end up in grocery stores? Only if the review process concludes favourably.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has started a 60-day public comment period the Arctic apples, Fresh Fruit Portal reports.

APHIS' extended review process allows consumers to test the apple. After the comment period, American and Canadian regulators will determine if the apple should be allowed for sale.

"We're confident these public comment opportunities will reassure consumers and producers alike that Arctic apples address browning in an innocuous way, so that we can move on to the work of getting more people eating more apples," says Carter.

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Consumers might like the idea of a non-browning apple, but they don't necessarily like the idea of genetic modification.

"A survey commissioned by Okanagan last year, which emphasized browning, found that nearly 60 percent of American apple eaters were somewhat or extremely likely to buy the Arctic Apples," reports the New York Times. "But a survey conducted a couple of weeks ago that emphasized genetic engineering found nearly 70 percent of Canadians opposed to the approval of the apple."

OSF applied for a test orchard in British Columbia last month. It was met with strong opposition from local farmers who feared cross-contamination.

Would you eat a genetically modified non-browning apple? Or would you rather just squirt a little lemon juice on your apple slices to keep them looking fresh?

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