USDA approves Canadian-made, non-browning apples
Published Friday, February 13, 2015 2:00PM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 13, 2015 2:19PM EST
The days of kids turning up their noses at browning apples could soon be coming to an end.
Two varieties of apples genetically modified to not turn brown have just been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced Friday it was deregulating the two varieties.
APHIS says it completed several plant pest risk assessments and found the apples were "unlikely to pose a plant pest risk to agriculture and other plants in the United States."
Its environmental assessment found as well that allowing the apple varieties to be planted and grown was unlikely to have a significant impact on the human environment.
The two varieties, called Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden, are genetically altered versions of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples. They were designed by B.C. biotechnology company Okanagan Specialty Fruits of Summerland, B.C., to not turn brown when sliced or bruised.
The biotechnology team found a way to silence the genes that cause apples to release polyphenol oxidase, or PPO, the key enzyme that leads to apple browning.
Several groups in Canada and the U.S., including the Society for a GE-Free BC and the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, have opposed the apples, saying they feared cross-pollination of conventional or organic apple trees with genetically modified apple trees.
They also worried that if consumers develop a negative perception of the apples, it will lead to a decline in apple sales generally.
But Okanagan Specialty says the technology will do the opposite, making apples more popular for use in salads, snacks, and lunch boxes.
They also say the non-browning apples will lower the cost of producing fresh apple slices, which currently need to be coated in calcium and ascorbic acid to maintain freshness.
Consumers will have to wait a few years for the apples as will take several years after the trees are planted to begin to produce significant quantities of fruit.
“As more trees are planted and they come into commercial production, there will be a slow, but steady market introduction,” OSF president and founder Neal Carter said in a statement.
He estimated that Arctic apples will first be available in late 2016 in small, test-market quantities.
Carter added that he wasn't surprised that USDA decided the apples were safe.
"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.”
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press