BY: RHIANN MOORE
The Arctic apple has been trotted out as a game changer in the misunderstood and massively hated GMO market. Canadian company, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, has spent years developing a non-browning apple with biotech firm Intrexon. The idea behind the so-called Arctic Apple is to lessen food wastage, as around 40% of what is produced in farming is lost due to bruising. The new apple is being marketed because of its genetic modifications, rather than in spite of.
Just this fall the Arctic Apple had its first commercial harvest. In the Midwestern US the apple will begin trials in ten supermarkets – it has also been approved for sale in Canada. The magic fruit went through scientific testing to show that it poses no threat to health and is actually quite similar to the original apple. Essentially, a gene was introduced into Arctic Apples that cause a reduction in the levels of enzymes that make an apple turn brown; beyond that the apple remains the same. Despite this the new apple has caused significant concern amongst the public, likely because of the distrust of all GMO products.
Advocates of genetic engineering say that the apple could be a turning point in widespread fear of GMOs. While genetic modifications of the past have been used mainly to protect crops, the Arctic Apple would be the fist to be marketed as a fruit that has been modified for convenience of the consumer. While in scientific circles the general acceptance of GMOs has expanded, outside of the confirmed unsafe modified corn and soy, there is still skepticism about the product. Many worry it is understudied and not properly labelled, leading to questions of how the public can tell if the fruit has gone bad if all the signals have been suppressed.
While the reaction may be understandable, it is likely not fully correct. The Arctic Apple has undergone almost a decade of rigorous testing until 2015 when it was finally decided that the apple posed no significant health or environmental risks. The apple will also get a boost from the mode of sale; much like baby carrots, the apple will be sold in 10-oz pre-sliced bags. Currently there are multiple companies that sell the same style of apple, however, to slow the process of browning the apples are treated with endless chemicals, ones that would not have to be used for the Arctic Apple.
With the Arctic Apple coming to stores soon as a fairly unprecedented product it’s tough to truly know how the public will take it. Although there is an unrelenting desire for convenience there is also a mistrust of GMOs stemming back years. With this being the first fruit that is outright advertised as better for its use of genetic modification it will certainly be the topic of much debate.