The First GMO Apple Will Hit Grocery Stores This February

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No ordinary apple. Photo: Courtesy of Okanagan Specialty Fruits

Evidence shows that genetically modified crops are safe to eat, but many consumers remain skeptical about newfangled foods. One Canadian fruit company is nevertheless betting that convenience can convince consumers to give GMO fruit a bite. As early as February 1 in some midwestern grocery stores, Okanagan Specialty Fruits is expected to debut its Arctic Golden Apple, a Golden Delicious that has been genetically modified not to brown. Initially, the apples will be available at ten locations of several midwestern chains, though Okanagan has so far declined to disclose exactly which ones.

Unlike crops that were genetically modified to purportedly protect them from pests or increase crop yields, the Arctic Apple has been marketed as more convenient — they don’t brown after they’ve been sliced. The apple was developed over the past 20 years by Okanagan under the guidance of founder Neal Carter, who has prevented browning by reducing the amount of the enzyme polyphenol oxidase. Unlike non-GMO apples, no chemical additives are used. Packaging also won’t declare the apples as GMO, information that will only be revealed by scanning a QR code.

Along with the Golden Delicious apples, the USDA has approved Granny Smith and Fuji apples and, additionally, Arctic Gala apples could be approved in 2018. (The company could further apply the non-browning technology to other tree fruits like pears and cherries.)

If the apples prove successful, it could be a breakthrough for GMO crops. Journalist and author of the forthcoming Food Fight: GMOs and the Future of the American Diet, McKay Jenkins, tells the Washington Post “any successful product could lift the cloud over GMOs.” But the anti-GMO contingent aren’t thrilled with Dana Perls of Friends of the Earth telling the paper that the Arctic Apple is “understudied, unlabeled, and unnecessary.”

The First GMO Apple Will Hit Grocery Stores This February