First GMO Apples to Hit U.S. Stores in February

gmo apples

The nation’s first GMO apples will be going on sale in ten Midwestern stores beginning in February. The Golden Delicious apples, sold sliced in plastic pouches, have been genetically modified not to brown for three full weeks once sliced.

The apple slices are sold under the Arctic brand and are produced by Okanagan Specialty Fruits of Summerland, B.C., which grows the apples in British Columbia and Washington State. The apples were genetically engineered using a gene silencing technique that reduces the amount of the enzyme polyphenol oxidase (PPO) in the apples, which causes apple flesh to oxidize when exposed to air.

According to Arctic, while PPO is important in protecting certain fruits and vegetables, it does not play an important role in the protection of apples.

“Tomatoes produce high levels of PPO when attacked by pests or pathogens,” explains the company. “In contrast, apples produce very low levels of PPO, and only in very young fruit. Its presence is probably left over from apples of ages ago, playing no role in today’s apples.”

However, PPO, which is an antioxidant, has been shown to have health benefits that would be removed in the GMO apples.

About 500 40-pound boxes will be sold with this first rollout of the product in the Midwest.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits founder and president Neal Carter told Capital Press that the Midwestern stores were not selected for any particular openness to GMO products.

“We don’t want to skew our test marketing results by choosing stores that may be more friendly to genetic engineering,” he said.

Carter notes that the company has decided not to reveal which retailers will be selling the apples, though the apple packaging will have a scannable QR code allowing consumers to identify the GMO product.

Granny Smith and Fuji varieties of GMO apple have also been approved for sale in the United States and in Canada. The Golden Delicious and Granny Smith varieties are expected to produce commercial quantities of fruit by next fall’s apple season, and the company expects to sell approximately 6,000 40-pound boxes of sliced apples in the fall, 12 times the amount being sold in this smaller rollout of the product.

“With the limited amount of fruit we have available right now, we’re not quite ready for the national retail market,” Carter said.

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Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco