Genetically Modified Apples: Browning No More

 

Article by Becky Errico | 586 words

Anyone who has ever had a toddler say they won’t eat an apple slice because it has brown spots on it may be catching a break. Apples that don’t go brown are making their way to the United States. According to The Seattle Times, the Department of Agriculture has approved the genetically modified apples of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., based in British Columbia.

How Genetics Change These Apples

The apples have been genetically modified so they won’t brown when exposed to the air or bruise upon contact. Okanagan’s process specifically targets the enzyme that enables the browning by infusing genes into the apples. These genes are just extras of ones the apples already had, so it’s not as if they’re completely foreign substances. By adding more of the gene, the enzyme that is responsible for the browning never activates in the apple, according to NPR.org.

Arctic Apple

Credit: ArcticApple.com

The apples that were changed were Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples. They are now being called Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny, as NPR.org goes on to explain.

It is hoped that the apples will help decrease food waste. After all, we can only guess how many apples are thrown out every day due to browning. This project should especially help people who precut their apples for snacks, salads and others uses, says NYDailyNews.com.

The next step for Okanagan is to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration. When that happens, the company will be able to grow and sell the apples here. However, that will take a few years, and even then, it will only be in small test-market amounts. So, don’t expect to see these apples yourself until late 2016 or early 2017.

Controversy Over Okanagan’s Apples

The apples aren’t available yet, but there are already people who are voicing their concerns. The worries focus on not just the product itself but also the government testing performed for products like this.

When the Department of Agriculture made its decision, there were groups that immediately spoke out against it. Some of those groups include Consumers Union, Food and Water Watch and Friends of the Earth. The concern is that the testing technology used needs to be inspected more thoroughly. These groups are also skeptical of how the government relies too much on the testing done by the companies themselves, says NPR.org. Could their testing methods be biased in favor of getting the product sold?

Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, also mentions a concern for what genetic modification could mean for the fruit. As she told ABC News, she believes that the modified genes could influence the apple in ways other than just preventing browning. These unintended changes could be dangerous to the consumer.

Another fear voiced by the Center for Food Safety concerns the freshness of the apples. The group wonders if, without the browning gene to act as a guide, customers won’t be able to tell when the apples are no longer fresh, say NYDailyNews.com.

Even with the concerns, there are people who are not worried about genetically modified food like these apples. One of these individuals is Dietitian Amy Jamieson-Petonic from the University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. She explained to ABC News that research on genetically modified foods shows that they don’t pose an immediate threat to people’s health. However, she adds that more research is always a good thing. We shouldn’t let the appeal of more convenient produce blind us to the necessity of examining the safety behind it.

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