Grower Seeks Approval for Genetically Modified Apple That Won’t Turn Brown

Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ Arctic Apple raises concerns about fruit’s wholesome, healthful image.

Would these apples still look as refreshing if you knew they were gentically modified? (Photo: Getty Images) 

Jul 12, 2012
Exec. Prod. of Franchises & Series. He previously reported for HuffPost, L.A. Daily Journal, and Biloxi Sun-Herald.

Would you still eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away if that apple had been genetically modified to keep it from turning brown?

A Canadian fruit grower is seeking approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to start marketing it's "truly nonbrowning" Arctic Apple to consumers here in the States.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits says its genetically modified apple is the perfect solution for people who want a convenient snack that solves the age-old problem of apple browning. They say restaurants and food-service companies could benefit from being able to sell sliced apples with a longer shelf life.

MORE: 5 Certified GMO-Free Breakfast Ideas

But the U.S. apple industry is taking a stand against the Arctic Apple, fearing that the introduction of the first genetically-modified food that shoppers can take a bite out of will harm the apple's traditional image as a smart, healthy snack choice.

So what exactly is the Arctic Apple? According to Okanagan Specialty Fruits:

We’ve all experienced the "yuck" factor of a browned apple. Enzymatic browning is the leading cause of discoloration of apples, apple juice and sauce. Arctic Apples are versions of your favorite apple varieties that have been genetically modified to not brown. The science is relatively simple; we "turn off" the genes that makes apples brown, so the enzyme that usually triggers enzymatic browning is no longer present in the apple. We insert nonbrowning apple genes to replace the genes that usually trigger enzymatic browning. In every other way, Arctic Apple trees and their fruit are identical to other apples. That is, until you bruise, bite or cut the apple – then Arctic Apples’ difference is very clear. Everyone benefits from a nonbrowning apple, from the grower to you, the consumer.

The USDA will begin accepting public comments Friday on the petition to approve the genetically modified apples. 

U.S. growers' groups who are opposed to the genetically modified fruit told The New York Times they worried that consumers would be unable to tell fresh from rotten fruit if it didn't brown. They also raised concerns about whether the gene used to modify the Arctic Apples would contaminate conventional fruit. 

The first Arctic Apples that would go to grocery store shelves in the U.S. would be Golden Delicious and Granny Smith varieties. 

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, an advocacy organization opposed to the genetically modified apple, released a consumer poll earlier this month that showed that 69 percent of shoppers were opposed to genetically modified apples. 

American consumers have 60 days to comment on the Okanagan Specialty Foods' petition. 

More on Genetically Modified Foods:

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