The US Department of Agriculture has approved genetically modified apples for consumption.
Once the FDA agrees, the approval will allow Arctic apple trees to be planted on US soil and eventually, have the produce sold in stores.
The genetically modified Arctic apples will not brown when exposed to air.
Scientists have created the specialized apple by ‘turning off’ the gene that causes apples to turn brown.
Technically called ‘enzymatic browning’, the color change in apples occurs when oxygen reacts with an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase.
Researchers used a technique called gene silencing to allow them to turn off the apple’s polyphenol oxidase expression. Once modified, the apple will produce the chemical in amounts too small to cause browning.
The Canadian company has licensed the technique to also include Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples. According to the Arctic apple website, there is no health difference between a browned and non-browned apple.
One of the highlights to the genetic modification is being able to eliminate the current method used by food-service companies, which is to rely on a chemical antioxidant called calcium ascorbate.
It’s this same chemical that allows places like McDonalds to sell sliced apples that are not browned. Not only is the chemical process an extra step in food preparation, it’s also expensive.
In a recent statement, Neal Carter, CEO of Okanagan specialty Fruits, called the USDA’s approval a “milestone”, and added, “All we’ve done is reduce the expression of a single enzyme; there are no novel proteins in Arctic fruit and their nutrition and composition is equivalent to their conventional counterparts.”
It will be several years before there are enough trees planted to commercially produce the apples.