The Genetically Engineered Non-browning Apple

There’s no denying it. We live in an aesthetically driven world…so much so that even the sight of a browning apple can turn us off. Orkanagan Specialty Fruits, a Canadian-based company, has tapped in to our obsession with looks and created an apple that does not brown.  Dubbed “Artic” apples, Orkanagan hopes to lure in parents who are looking for a more appealing apple with which to tempt their toddlers. Okanagan’s president, Neal Carter, is confident that food service companies will jump on board both for cost effectiveness and consumer appeal. To keep them looking fresh, apple slices are typically sprayed with an antioxidant chemical like calcium ascorbate—a treatment that costs food service companies 35-40% of expenses. A genetically engineered non-browning apple, on the other hand, could cut costs by 30%.

Sounding good? Not so fast…the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has continually warned against GMOs, claiming they pose a serious threat to public health. There’s no denying it—the introduction of GMOs to the food supply correlates with a rise in food allergies and chronic disease!

appleThe Genetically Engineered Non-browning Apple

Apples naturally contain a gene that is responsible for producing an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase. This enzyme activates a chemical reaction that results in the browning that occurs when an apple is sliced in two. Orkanagan food engineers, however, are able to halt production of this enzyme by inserting extra copies of the gene into the apple. Exactly how safe is this? According to Thierry Vrain, former research scientist of Agriculture Canada, not very.

While working for Agriculture Canada, Vrain was responsible for convincing the public that genetically modified crops and foods were safe. Vrain has since reversed his stance, influenced by the wealth of research from reputable medical journals disproving the safety of GMOs. Vrain explains:

“The whole paradigm of the genetic engineering technology is based on a misunderstanding. Every scientist now learns that any gene can give more than one protein and that inserting a gene anywhere in a plant eventually creates rogue proteins. Some of these proteins are obviously allergenic or toxic.”

What’s on the Horizon?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hasn’t officially given a thumbs up to Orkanagan’s non-browning apple, but the preliminary verdict seems to be that it’s probably as safe as a conventional apple. That begs the question…just how safe is a conventional apple? After all, apples top the list of the “Dirty Dozen,” a public safety warning put together by the Environmental Working Group and made up of the most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables. In the debate between organic and conventional, organic apples win hands down!

It should take a few years before the genetically engineered non-browning apple, which has already been introduced to Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties, hits the grocery shelves. Since the GMO trend only seems to be getting stronger, it’s important to keep a vigilant eye out.