By: Thomas Siebertz
A company in Canada has created a genetically modified apple that is immune to enzymatic browning. The company is Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF) and what they have done is silenced a gene in the apples which causes them to turn brown. The browning is due to the introduction of oxygen to the plant tissue, when an apple is cut or damaged, for example. When this happens, an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (PPO), present in the chloroplasts, will rapidly oxidize phenolic compounds naturally present in the apple to o-quinones. These quinones produce the brown color by reacting to form compounds with amino acids or proteins.*
Some varieties of apples have lower levels of PPO present, which causes the browning reaction to be slower. What OSF has done is taken genes from apples with lower PPO levels and substituted them into the Arctic Apple to create a product that doesn’t turn brown. The Arctic Apple is grown naturally on trees just like any other apple.
A lot of the comments I’ve read online have been negative towards this new product. Some are saying it will harm the image of apples as a natural food and in turn hurt the apple industry. Others say it will be impossible to tell when the apple is rotten. There are also people who are immediately terrified when they hear “genetically modified” and are against it before testing has even been done.
The Arctic Apple is currently under regulatory review to be sold and marketed in the US. I think the Arctic Apple has potential to reduce cost and waste in the apple industry, as long people don’t think of it as a “franken-fruit”. To learn more visit the OSF website at: http://www.arcticapples.com/
What do you think of this new product? Is it a shining example of how food science can solve problems in the food industry? Will the public’s lack of acceptance prevent it from ever coming to market?