GMO Apples Arriving at Grocery Stores

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By Dr. Mercola

Apples genetically engineered to resist browning when sliced or bruised are on their way to about 400 grocery stores in the U.S. Midwest. Developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the apples are engineered to suppress the production of the enzyme — polyphenol oxidase (PPO) — that causes browning. The first two varieties of the so-named Arctic Apple — Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny — were deregulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2015. A third variety, Arctic Fuji, joined the mix in 2016.1

Their arrival in stores is noteworthy for a number of reasons, the first being that this is the first Genetically modified organism (GMO) designed to have a perceived benefit for consumers. While people have been consuming genetically engineered (GE) foods for some time — often without knowing, since labels aren’t required — the GE products were designed to appeal to farmers.

For instance, Monsanto recently released Roundup Ready Xtend cotton and soybean seeds, designed to tolerate both Roundup and dicamba herbicides. Consumers wouldn’t go seeking out this type of soybean, but rather consume it by default, because it’s planted by farmers. This is changing with the release of GE Arctic Apples, which could prompt people to seek out the nonbrowning apples by name.

Arctic Apples to Serve as a Bellwether for Consumer-Geared GE Foods

Many companies dabbling in GMOs have their eyes on Arctic Apples, waiting to see if consumers accept or reject them. “If the apple sells, it will pave the way for others,” Yinong Yang, a plant pathologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, told Nature. He is among those keeping watch on the new apples, as he created a GE mushroom that resists browning, using CRISPR technology.2

Others waiting in the wings include Finless Foods, which is working on creating Bluefin-tuna fillets made from fish stem cells, and the creators of meatless burgers made from GE yeast. As for Okanagan’s GE apples, “The purpose of Arctic apples is definitely to promote healthy eating, boost apple consumption and reduce food waste, no matter what your age, income or any other factor,” the company’s president, Neal Carter, told Bloomberg.3

He stated that, in testing that occurred in 2017, 90 percent of consumers who tried them said they’d buy them if they were available, and the company cites statistics that 40 percent of apples are wasted, often due to browning.4 How valuable a nonbrowning apple proves to be to consumers remains to be seen, however. The first GE apples will be sold sliced, in 10-ounce bags — and they won’t be labeled as GMOs.

As of November 2017, there are about 280 acres of GE apple trees growing in Washington state. The company is hoping to increase this to more than 1,000 acres by 2020 and expanding to other countries and products.5 Despite the fact that this is one of the only whole-product GMOs on the market (as opposed to products sold that contain GE…

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