Rethinking Healthcare

This man's apples will never turn brown

Posting in Environment

-- even when bruised or sliced open. But does the market want more genetically modified fruit?

You know that brownish tinge apple slices get after a few minutes on the counter? As a child I found it positively putrid. "They're brown!" I remember insisting daily to my poor babysitter, who in hopes of efficiency would slice the apples prior to her four charges arriving home from school.

Neal Carter feels that pain, both of the eater put-off by brown apples and the preparer who wants her pre-sliced apples to appear fresh. He's created a line of apples called Arctic Apples that can go for days without browning after slicing.

Apples and potatoes discolor through a process call enzymatic browning, which is driven by polyphenol oxidase (PPO). A group of Australian engineers had figured out how to silence the gene for PPO in potatoes. Carter licensed the technology through his company Okanagan Specialty Fruits, and began using it on apples.

The Arctic Apple is currently in the middle of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 60-day comment period, reports Co.Exist.

The Okanagan website acknowledges the controversy around products like theirs on their website, while at the same time attempting to rewrite the narrative around the controversy.

"Frankenfood" – the very term is evidence that the communications environment around genetically modified foods (GMOs) is highly emotionally charged. All too often, a small but vocal minority is driving the discussion about GMO foods. In the process the majority mainstream consumers’ wants and needs are lost.

Most of the soybeans, corn, papaya, and sugar beet currently sold in the U.S. are GMO, but apples would be the only mainstream commercially available fruit with the treatment. Monsanto's sweet corn is set to hit the market this fall.

Carter assures consumers that his anti-browning engineering only applies to browning from exposure, bacterial and fungal-driven browning will still show up to let us know the fruit's gone bad. He also says we shouldn't fear pollen from his GMO spreading to other orchards. But Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, tells Co.Exist's Ariel Schwartz that's not true.

"The on-the-ground experience of apple growers is that risk of contamination is quite high,"she says. "Some people do actually eat the seed, and apple trees do grow from random seeds scattered on compost heaps on the side of the road. This is the problem with complex organisms and complex ecosystems. There’s always going to be some level of contamination and risk."

Whether or not consumers are ready for more GMO fruit, Okanagan is preparing to release Gala and Fuji varieties of Arctic Apples, to match the Granny Smith and Golden Delicious currently in production. They also plan to introduce pitting-resistant cherries in the near future.

[via Co.Exist]

Photos: Carter and Traditional vs. Arctic Apple from okspecialtyfruits.com

Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure