On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved for commercial use the Arctic Apple, a genetically engineered apple that doesn’t turn brown when cut open or bruised. It took nearly three years for the department to approve the new variety, while several more years are required until the apple will be available for sale.
Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the biotech company that requested the approval, said that its apple will be welcomed by both consumers and food catering companies due to its more appealing look when sliced. The company also hopes that the new variety will prevent apples from being unnecessarily discarded after turning brown.
But there are many opponents to the Arctic Apple, even within the apple industry. Apple producers fear that consumers will reject the new brand due to food safety concerns. They are also worried that the apple exports to countries that have a low tolerance on GMOs will go deep-down.
In the marketplace we participate in, there doesn’t seem to be room for genetically modified apples now,”
said a spokesperson for the Rice Fruit Company , the largest apple packer on the East Coast.
Consumers are also worried about the GMO issue because it may be hazardous to health since not enough studies were conducted to convince everyone that they are safe. The Department of Agriculture approves a newly engineered plant only after it passes some tests that prove the plant isn’t harmful to other plants or pests. And Artic apples proved not to be harmful.
The developers announced that the non-browning apple will come in two varieties – Granny Smith and Golden Delicious. They also said that the apple doesn’t pose any health threat to humans, nor does it lack nutritional value.
The only part which was tweaked was an enzyme that turned the fruit brown when injured or cut open. Over time, Arctic apples still rot like regular varieties do.
Officials say that the Americans already eat tons of genetically engineered crops, mostly corn and soybean, hidden in their favorite processed products. So, the new apple wouldn’t be a total novelty.
Also, the Artic apple is one of the few GMOs that have been engineered to serve consumers’ purposes, rather than those of producers. Most genetically altered crops are tweaked to make them more resistant to pests and herbicides.
But consumer rights advocacy groups already complain that the Arctic apple is “simply unnecessary” since putting lemon juice or acid citric on a regular apple can also prevent it from browning.
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