The apple that never goes brown: Biotech firm in bid to sell genetically modified fruit for lunchboxes

A Canadian biotechnology company has asked the U.S. authorities to approve a genetically modified apple that will not brown soon after it is sliced.

The apple variety, which is being marketed as ‘Arctic’, has had the genes responsible for producing the enzyme that induces browning switched off.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits say the new type could boost sales of apples for snacks and salads and lower costs.

A worker sorts through apples at Crunch Pak, an apple slicing  company in Cashmere, WashingtonA worker sorts through apples at Crunch Pak, an apple slicing company in Cashmere, Washington. A Canadian firm wants to genetically modify apples so they do not go brown

Neal Carter, president of the company said: ‘They look like apple trees and grow like apple trees and produce apples that look like all other apples and when you cut them, they don’t turn brown.

‘The benefit is something that can be identified just about by everybody.’

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has considered about 100 petitions for genetically engineered or modified crops.

Those that have drawn the most attention have been engineered to withstand certain weed killers, but among those the agency has approved are tomatoes altered to ripen more slowly – the first genetically modified crop approved in the U.S. in 1992 – and plums that resist a specific virus. This is the first petition for apples.

The approval process can take years, and it’s not clear the apples will be accepted even if they pass government inspection.

Fryhover raised concerns about cross-pollination of conventional trees with genetically modified ones if they were planted in close proximity. He also questioned whether Arctic apples would generate enough in sales to outweigh the $10,000 to $20,000 per acre cost of replanting.

Carter said growers replant orchards all the time and the company aims to have big growers plant the apples in large blocks so cross pollination is minimised.

Carter said he is confident the fruit will notharm the environment and he’s submitted paperwork to the USDA and FDA to prove his point.

‘Some people won’t like it just because of what it is,’ he said. ‘In the end, it’s a great product, no question about it, and people will see the process used to get it had very sound science.’

Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety said: ‘Scientists have been saying they’re only turning one thing off, but that switch is connected to another switch and another switch.

‘You can’t just do one thing to nature. It’s nice to think so, but it just doesn’t work that way.’

He also said the non-browning technology appears to benefit apple growers and shippers more than consumers by allowing companies to sell apples that are older than they look.

‘A botox apple is not what people are looking for,’ Kimbrell said. ‘I’m predicting failure.’

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