First Crop of Genetically Engineered “Non-Browning Apples” Is Grown: What You Must Know to Avoid It

By On June 9, 2016

The new non-browning GMO apple on the left. Via the Okanagan Specialty Fruits Twitter page.

The new genetically engineered “Arctic” Apple by a Canadian company called Okanagan Specialty Fruits received a tremendous backlash when it was first announced, and now it’s inching ever closer to store shelves with no mandatory labeling in sight.

The company tweeted recently that it has begun growing its first crop in Washington, about 50 bins worth, and that if the apple is given the go-ahead by regulators it will be treated essentially like any other apple in other words, it likely won’t be labeled as GMO when it is harvested and sold this fall.

A recent article in EcoWatch provided this update:

(Company Founder Neal) Carter said that the first apples will be test marketed in select stores this year. As production ramps up, more apples will by distributed to locations in the U.S. and Canada. Carter declined to name which growers, packers or retailers will be working with Arctic Apples.

Good Fruit Grower reported that once regulatory agencies have approved the apple varieties, the company may promote its flagship product like any other apple you see in the market.

What that approval means is it’s treated like any other apple variety,” Carter said.

The apple’s signature trait is that it does not brown over time after being sliced, which has many consumers worried and watchdog groups urging caution over the apple they say has not been adequately tested for possible health related effects.

As Wenona Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch says in the article:

“This technology uses RNA to silence a target gene, but mounting evidence has shown that meddling with the genes could have unintended effects within the plant and also on organisms that eat the plant. The particular gene targeted by this technology allows the apples to be sliced without turning brown, which could mislead consumers into thinking they are eating fresh apples when they might be eating apples on the verge of rotting. Browning is an important indicator to consumers in determining the freshness of an apple or apple slice.

“The silenced gene is also heavily involved in a plant’s natural defense against pests and pathogens, which could lead to trees that are less healthy than non-GMO apples and rely on more chemical treatments to ward off pests and disease.

“Because the apple is not likely to be labeled (although things could change in the coming months especially as the Vermont mandatory labeling statute goes into effect on July 1), the best way to avoid it will be to buy organic, and to look for anything that says “Arctic” on the package or has the Okanagan name on the package.”

For more on the coming “Arctic Apple” storm, check out the full article by clicking here.

(Also note that the company that made the apple receive a $41 million payout including $10 million in cash immediately after it was granted approval despite the tens of thousands of comments against its creation).