Schreiber Science: Arctic Apples

Adi Levin, Staff Writer

Over the years, GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, have caused much controversy. There has been an ongoing debate over whether these should, or should not be used. Countless people believe that they can have a negative effect on our health, while others think that modifying food is an ingenious way of helping both consumers and farmers.

As new products hit the market, even more concerns have arisen. Recently, Okanagan Specialty Fruits have gotten a new type of apple approved. This innovative apple, know as the Arctic Apple, will be available in Golden Delicious and Granny Smith varieties.  There are over 7,500 types of apples out there, but what is it that  distinguishes this particular apple from all the others on the market?

The Arctic Apple has an unusual quality: when it is cut open, it does not turn brown for eight hours.  According to researchers at Okanagan Specialty Fruits, this feature will minimize apple bruising and create less waste.  Bushels of apples are constantly being rejected by supermarkets for even the smallest bruises.  Furthermore, the Arctic Apple is different from most GMOs or processed foods because instead of containing recombinant DNA from other organisms, it contains copies of its own DNA.  Scientists have found a way to stop a naturally occurring enzyme, polyphenol oxidase, from activating, which keeps the apples fresh for hours.

Although this apple’s benefits are clear, a prime worry is that the Arctic Apple has not been approved by the Food Drug Administration (FDA).  In fact, genetically engineered foods do not need the approval of the FDA at all.  When the apple is publicly released to supermarkets across the country, there will be no indicator or label that it has been genetically modified.  Consequently, a great number of consumers are hesitant to accept the Arctic Apples because no one truly knows what other chemicals it may have been treated with.  Many companies that sell apple slices coat them in Vitamin C or calcium, unbeknownst to the people who buy them. These methods alter the apple’s taste for the sake of keeping it fresh. The concept of freshness was the company’s key goal when developing the Arctic Apple. Although the Arctic Apple provides a better way to preserve freshness, putting a bit of lemon juice on your apple slices is still a surefire way to prevent browning and cause the crisp taste to last longer.

In a recent survey conducted by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, sixty percent of people said they would buy Arctic Apples, despite the lack of information about the fruit. If Arctic Apples become as successful as the survey indicated, they could take over the apple industry and potentially hurt farmers who grow their apples naturally.   The United States produces about 250 million bushels a year.  In the future, how many do you think will be genetically engineered?