In 2017, be on the lookout for apples with a special snowflake sticker on their skin: this small symbol indicates that your grocery store is carrying the first genetically modified apple. The Arctic® apple, recently approved by the USDA, will brown less quickly and dramatically than traditional apples after being sliced. Unlike the majority of other GMO foods, which use genes taken from other species, the Arctic® apple is modified using genes from other varieties of apples. Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the creators of the apple, hope that this quality will make apples more palatable and popular: without the “yuck factor” (their words) of browning, more apples will get eaten instead of thrown away, leading consumers to spend less for and eat more of this healthy nutritious food.
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Okanagan also states that their apple will retain more of the fruit’s natural antioxidant properties, since browning can destroy some of them. The company has submitted samples to the FDA for approval, but since this GMO-apple uses the same technology as the already-approved first GMO potato, the Arctic® is also likely to get the green light. Although the company’s website promises that “there’s no frankenfood here, folks,” we find their PR campaign disturbing: “Arctic® apples are everything you love about apples, without the “yuck” factor that you don’t. (Now if we could just get rid of the seeds!)” We’re confident a GMO, seed-free apple is in the works as well, and pretty soon we could be staring at something in the grocery store that looks like an apple, may taste something like an apple, but that totally dismisses thousands of years of agricultural traditions, family farming values, and basic plant anatomy in its creation. *Sigh.*
Lead image via Arctic Apples