Genetically Modified Apples That Won't Go Brown Will Be Sold in America

Genetically Modified Apples That Won't Go Brown Will Be Sold in AmericaAny fan of apples knows how quickly they change colors when cut, turning brown over time. But new genetically modified apples, produced by Okanagan Specialty Fruits with the brand name Arctic Apples, will be sold in the United States for the first time next month. Okanagan has altered the apples to turn brown at a slower rate.

Almost all plants contain the enzyme that turns apples brown—polyphenol oxidase, better known as PPO. It's what turns coffee brown, to name just one example. Okanagan plans on selling the Arctic Apples in slices, showing off their ability to be exposed to oxygen and retain that just-cut color. Arctics, which plan on being sold as Golden Delicious, Fuji, and Granny Smith, do eventually turn brown when left out, but the process takes three weeks.

A fact sheet put out by the USDA notes that Okanagan has inserted a "gene that allows the fruit to resist browning. The appearance and quality of these apples, however, are comparable to the appearance and quality of traditional apples."

The president of Okanagan, Neal Carter, says that his apple slices will offer savings from a price perspective. PPO can be contained without genetics, but the process requires antioxidants. "Right now," he tells NPR, "to make fresh-cut apple slices and put them in the bag, 35 or 40 percent of the cost is the antioxidant treatment. So you could make a fresh-cut apple slice 30 percent cheaper."

The company is starting small, with 85,000 trees at an undisclosed location in Washington state, possibly to keep away anti-GMO protestors. A mere 500 boxes of the fruit will be sent to 10 unnamed retailers in the Midwest, each coming in at 40 pounds. However, that number plans on growing: according to agricultural trade publication Capital Press, "300,000 trees will be planted this spring and 500,000 are being budded for planting in 2018."
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