America’s favorite fruit is getting a makeover. For the first time since the Flavr Savr tomato back in the mid-90’s, there might be GMO fruit available in your local produce department as early as 2014.
Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF) is hoping to release what they are calling the Arctic Apple in the US and Canada. But while most pro-GMO companies are fighting regulation for labeling their foods as being genetically modified, Okanagan Specialty Fruits hopes it will be a selling point to consumers, and plan to label all their apples with “Arctic Apple” stickers to differentiate them from conventional and organic apples. What’s their angle?
These apples don’t brown.
The short of the story behind these apples is that laboratory modifications are made to shut off the enzyme that produces browning when cell injury occurs in an apple – such as slicing, dropping/bruising, etc. The process for this modification is complex, creating this trait using an antibiotic and Agrobacterium found in tiny pieces of apple leaves. But the makers of the Arctic Apple state that “All of these elements are found in nature, and carefully put together by scientists with lots of initials after their names..”.
Already at the top of the dirty dozen list (a list of produce which retains the highest amount of pesticide residue), apple consumption has gone down since the 1980’s, from about 20 lbs per year to 16 lbs per year. Okanagan Specialty Fruits says they hope to bring these numbers back up with their GMO apples, claiming that apples are “for many people too big a commitment”, and the non-browning affect will make the fruit more accessible, more long-lasting, and more versatile.
There is resistance for this apples to be approved for sale in the U.S. The Organic Advocacy Group argues that “There is no proof that Arctic Apples are harmless, but there is certainly reason to suspect that they may be harmful to humans, wildlife, and the soil environment.”
Okanagan created a small library of videos on their website addressing all the health and environmental concerns it has been challenged with. They stand by the safety of their product, explaining that, while other GMO’s are designed for the benefit of the farmer, such as built-in pest control, their product is different because it benefits the consumer, and they promise to preserve key nutrients in their apples, such as vitamin C.
Perhaps one of the largest concerns comes directly from apple farmers, and their concern is a big one. How will cross-contamination from bee’s cross pollenating be prevented? Okanagan addresses this on their website, but not to the satisfaction of the leaders in the apple industry.
One point made in the conversation about whether there is a need for this kind of technology: what about tossing your apple slices in good old-fashioned lemon juice to prevent browning?
Surprisingly, genetically modified food does not require approval from the FDA to be sold in the U.S., however Okanagan has submitted data to the FDA for review.
What do you think about this new GMO apple?