Genetically Altered Non-Browning Apples Could Reach U.S. Stores

By Breanna Draxler | January 10, 2014 12:47 pm

apple slices

Fruit salad enthusiasts, take heart. The unappetizing browning of sliced apples could be a thing of the past thanks to genetically-modified fruits that resist oxidation.

The apples, currently being grown in test plots in the U.S., are under review by the USDA and currently open for public comment. Approval appears likely.

Beating the Brown Apple

Apples’ color change is due to a process called “enzymatic browning.” When the fruit’s insides are exposed to oxygen, that oxygen reacts with an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase, causing the apple to turn brown.

Tricks to prevent the browning include applying lemon juice or, for large food service companies, a chemical antioxidant called calcium ascorbate. (That’s what allows places like McDonald’s to sell bags of sliced apples.) But researchers in Australia came up with a way to eliminate the need for costly chemicals by preventing browning before an apple is cut. They inserted extra copies of the enzyme-producing gene into the apple’s genome and found that it actually caused the whole enzyme-production process to shut down. No oxidizing enzymes means no browning.

Now a Canadian company has licensed the technique for producing these brown-proof “Arctic” apples (called so because they are perpetually white, one suspects) in two varieties: Golden Delicious and Granny Smith.

Science Says They’re Safe

Preliminary studies by the U.S. Department of Agriculture determined that the Arctic apples are as harmless as their conventional counterparts and have given Okanagan Specialty Fruits the green light to grow the Arctic varieties on test plots in New York and Washington states. Official USDA approval is in the works; the proposal for deregulation of Arctic apples is open for public comment until January 30. And the public is definitely commenting.

Some oppose genetic modification as a concept, and don’t want altered apples in fields or food supply. Others say that non-browning apples will encourage more kids to eat the healthy snack food.

If the apples are approved, most likely in the next couple months, it will still be a couple years before the fruits make their way to grocery stores.

Image credit: clearimages/Shutterstock

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
  • Buddy199

    If the apples are approved, most likely in the next couple months, it will still be a couple years before the fruits make their way to grocery stores.
    The nuts will make their way to the anti-GMO picket lines long before that.

    • 7th_son

      Ya…well they can line up at the 3X the Price…”Health Food Store”
      Genetic Selection has been around since Cave Men switched to Farming.

  • RobertWager

    getting to the “brass tacks” of this product, we have apple genes being used to control apple genes in apples. Nothing like a little context to defuse the fear.

    • Bobareeno

      But wait..this new genetic development will reduce the need for lemon juice and calcium ascorbate, thus destroying these industries, creating more unemployment. We cannot allow the apples to do the work of minimum wage poor people. Economic chaos looms.

  • communitygrowing

    Don’t be fooled by the story of ‘apple genes being inserted into apple genes.’ There’s also a plant virus and two different bacteria inserted. And absolutely no safety testing done or required by Health Canada – no one knows the nutritional value or the effects on humans of this ‘unnatural’ process. 80% of BC’s tree fruit exports are apples – and clearly other countries do not want genetically engineered apples.

    • Robert Lensch

      Think of the danger of naturally evolved apples…NO testing done there either. We need protection from nature. It is our greatest enemy.

      • communitygrowing


        • Robert Lensch

          My apologies for not specifically stating that this post was sarcastic in nature. I need to be more careful, understanding and sympathetic towards some readers and posters here.

          • Hat Er

            I think it is understood that your post is sarcastic, it is funny but silly however slightly narrow in its. The reality is GMOs and HYV crops do have many downsides and have been attributed to ever increasing pollution levels in water supplies due to higher concentrations of pesticides and chemical fertilisers required, and soils are heavily depleted, resulting in less nutritious and healthy fruit.

            I suppose it doesn’t matter that there are no uncontaminated freshwater bodies in China and the USA, or increasing desertification in Africa, or the fact that poorer farmers buy crops without having the resources to maintain them. Its all good.

            The labelling laws in the States are unfair where the consumer is not able to make the choice. In recent trade talks they have put on the agenda to lobby for revised labelling laws in the EU particularly targeting GMOs (soon to include animal or fish not just vegetable organisms) and chlorinated chicken.

            This article is just promoting the idea as awesome.

  • Deborah

    These apples are already on the shelves. I understand calcium ascorbate on apples that are sliced, packed and sold in stores, but I think whole fruits should be left in there natural state. There’s nothing wrong with a little lemon juice on your apples after you slice it. I say we have enough if not too much additives in our food already.


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