GMO Apples That Do Not Brown Have Hit Stores
By Heather Callaghan, Editor
After much anticipation, consternation and hype – the GMO Arctic Apples, genetically engineered not to brown are on their way to supermarkets across America.
Arctic Apples, made by Okanagan Specialty Fruits were specifically altered to not turn brown when exposed to the air. When non-GMO apples are cut or bruised, an “enzyme in apples called polyphenol oxidase (PPO) readily oxidises to form o-quinones – chemical precursors to the brown substance which, in turn, are formed after they react with proteins in the flesh of the apple.”
The company’s pre-sliced and packaged apples in granny smith, golden delicious and Fuji varieties will be sold in Midwestern grocery stores starting this month.
Part of the controversy of the apples, however, comes from the way that they were altered using a newer form of GE biotech called CRISPR.
A team of scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia was able to simply “delete” the gene that is responsible for encoding the enzyme. As a result, they were able to prevent the fruit from browning, reports Futurism. Regulators in the US assessed the apples for five years before they were allowed to go on shelves.
And that’s part of the problem – the concept that we are now introducing plants into the world’s ecology that have genes that are quite literally “deleted.” The apples were reportedly tested for five years prior to their market release; however, the Arctic Apple trees were first planted in 2003.
Some people may be asking – are browned apples really that big of a deal? Why this product? A plant pathologist’s comments might hold the key.
“If the apple sells, it will pave the way for others,” says Yinong Yang, a plant pathologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park who has devised a way to reduce browning in mushrooms using CRISPR, reports Nature.
If this product becomes a commercial success (unlike the first GMO product marketed – the so-called FlavrSavr tomato flop) than a bevy of GMO foods can replace the entire produce section at grocery stores everywhere.
The company says that this will be the first “whole”-GMO-food geared toward consumer tastes, not farmers’ crop convenience. They say that the GMO industry failed with the consumer because there was not an “open” discourse with the public about their products. Arctic Apple studies claim that “trusting of its GMO apples when told that they only do not brown and that they have been tested for safety.”
There are many labeling advocacy groups that simply want better labeling of genetically engineered products than what is currently allowed under federal law. Bill Freese, a science-policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, for instance, “wants the Arctic Apples to be clearly marked as GMO. He argues that not everyone has a smartphone and that the information on the packaging does not explicitly point out to it being GMO.”
However, what the glowing report about Arctic Apples from IBTimes won’t tell you is that Okanagan co-founder Neal Carter isn’t as open about his GE product as you might think. He does not want them labeled.
According to a report by Nick Meyer of Althealthworks, Carter stated:
“I don’t think we’re hiding behind the fact that we use that technique,” Carter also said according to CBCNews in January of this year about GMO labeling. “We don’t want to demonize the product by putting a big GMO sticker on it.”
Carter’s comments are reminiscent of a seminal moment in GMO history in 1994, when Norman Braksick, president of the Asgorw Seed Company (a subsidiary of Monsanto), said the following to the Kansas City Star: “If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.”
Furthermore, CRISPR is new territory and may have “unintended consequences” – biotech companies are trying to avoid the technology as being labeled genetic engineering.
In June 2017 a study came out from Columbia University showing that the CRISPR genetic engineering process is capable of causing “hundreds of unintended gene mutations” within the organism, surprising researchers, who called for a closer look.
While it is not known how this may affect humans or whether gene edited CRISPR foods such as GMO apples have similar issues, the study raised plenty of eyebrows among scientific community members who believe the technology should be better regulated.
Obviously, anyone who is concerned about this new tech will want to avoid Okanagan’s packaged and pre-sliced Arctic Apples that do not brown. In other words – simply buy unpackaged, whole apples.
As this report shows, however, consumers will need to make a lot more demands than just “voting with their dollars” and “forks.” As you can see, Arctic Apples are only the beginning of the most unsettling domino cascade in recent memory.
If we don’t act now and make demands, a “whole-food diet” will look a whole lot different in the near future. In fact, it will be impossible.
DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.