U.S. Approves Apples Genetically Modified to Brown More Slowly

Posted on February 15, 2015

Arctic Apples comparison

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) has approved a new GMO apple. The apple created by Okanagan Specialty Fruits has been genetically modified to brown more slowly. Okanagan has given its apples the name Arctic apples. They come in Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties.

The government approval means Arctic apples can be grown by apple growers just like any other apple tree. It will be a few years before they arrive in stores because the trees need time to grow. Okanagan expects it will be 2016 before its nonbrowning apples start showing up in test markets. A website about the apples can be found at arcticapples.com.

Regular apples show bruising and discoloration after they are sliced. The New York Times reports that the Arctic apples have been genetically engineered so that the production of an enzyme that causes browning is suppressed. The modified apples do eventually brown but at a much slower pace than regular apples.

The Times story quotes Okanagan president and founder Neal Carter as saying they are getting many requests from growers. He says, "I can't believe how many requests we've had just this morning to our website from people who want to buy trees."

Food & Water Watch deems the new apples unnecessary and argues that they provide only a cosmetic benefit. Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, says in a statement, "This G.M.O. apple is simply unnecessary. Apple browning is a small cosmetic issue that consumers and the industry have dealt with successfully for generations."

Photo: Okanagan Specialty Fruits