A small British Columbia fruit grower has developed an apple that doesn't turn brown when it's cut or bruised, but not everyone is biting.
Okanagan Specialty Fruits, a small company in B.C.'s Okanagan Valley, is hoping to get approval to begin production of the Arctic Apple that they say won't turn brown. The company website says right now it is available in Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties, with plans to add Fuji and Gala apples in the future. They say the fruit will still decay naturally but won't turn brown in "minutes, hours or days."
Neal Carter, president of the company, says they were able to genetically modify the apples using techniques developed by Australian researchers, who had developed it for potatoes. He says by turning off the enzyme in apples that makes them turn brown, actually improves the taste and smell, adding that he believes the apples are perfectly safe using apple's own genes to create the new fruit, and he's confident that consumers will bite.
But the Toronto Star says a recent Canadian survey by the B.C. Fruit Growers Association and the Quebec Apple Producers Association found that nearly 70% of consumers surveyed, wouldn't support government approval of the genetically modified fruit. The Toronto Star says the company is seeking regulatory approval in Canada and the U.S. A 60 day period asking for public comments by the U.S. Department of Agriculture began on July 13, 2012 and a similar request for public submissions by the Canadian Food Safety Inspection Agency drew more than 3000 responses.
The New York Times reports that the U.S. Apple Association is opposed to the introduction of the Arctic Apple, saying while they don't believe genetic engineering is dangerous, it could be a bad PR move and undermine the fruit's image as a "healthy and natural food". Christian Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, representing Washington State growers which produce about 60% of America's apples, tells the Times, “We don’t think it’s in the best interest of the apple industry of the United States to have that product in the marketplace at this time.”
But not everyone in the American apple business is opposed. John Rice of the Rice Fruit Company, a large apple packer in Pennsylvania, tells the New York Times he thinks the fact that they don't turn brown could help growers and packers. “We discard an awful lot of fruit for even minor bruising.”
He also says the industry’s hard line response could discourage research into using genetic engineering for even more important things, like disease or pest resistance.
The next stage after the public consultations, is scientific testing of the apple to ensure it's safety. Until it clears those hurdles, you won't find the new Arctic Apples on your store shelves, and officials say that could take quite some time.
Video of Okanagan Specialty Fruits President Neal Carter on whether Arctic Apples are safe.