Sliced apple

We first told you about Okanagan Specialty Fruits developing genetically modified apple varieties designed to never go brown back in 2010, and it looks like the Canadian biotech company is closer than ever to getting approval for launching the apples into the market as soon as 2014.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits has officially filed a request to start selling two varieties of its GMO apples—Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny—in Canada and the U.S. that the company claims can stay “fresh” for weeks without browning, even once the apples have been sliced.

The apples have had the gene responsible for browning turned off, according to the company, which, it alleges could decrease food waste and benefit growers who typically lose a significant portion of harvests to bruised fruit. The company also claims fewer chemicals will be needed in treating the apples before processing, and juice pressed from the GMO apples would appear “clearer” than traditional apple juice.

Critics of the modified apples are concerned not just about the health risks involved in eating genetically modified foods, particularly with apples being a popular snack for small children, but also over the increased risks of pollen drift from the GMO orchards to organic crops that could cause organic apple farmers to lose their certification if contaminated. Criticism also hovers around consumer confusion, which could be heightened by some apples that never brown versus traditional fruits that brown within minutes. Browning occurs as the apple oxidizes—the first stages of decomposition. The Arctic apple’s ability to avoid changing colors may actually deceive consumers into thinking the fruit is fresher than it actually is, which could leave way for harmful bacterial growth to build up on the fruit.

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Image: pj_vanf