The USDA Just Approved GMO Apples That Don't Brown

Written by Emi Boscamp

Today, the USDA announced that it has approved a Canadian company's Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apple varieties that have been bred with an extra gene that shuts down the oxidation process.

In other words, we will soon be able to buy apples that don't brown.

The motive behind creating this more visually appealing apple was to reduce waste. But while it's not ideal when your apple slice takes on a beige tint after only a few moments, it's also not that big a deal. It's still edible — unless you're a particularly persnickety eater or a toddler.

Unlike "traditional" GMOs, which essentially combine genes from multiple species to create desired characteristics, scientists used gene sequences from other apples to prevent the "enzymatic browning." The fruits will be marketed as Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden.

The non-browning apples created by Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. are "unlikely to pose a plant pest risk" or to have "a significant impact on the human environment," the USDA said in its statement. But it still seems, well, pretty unnatural. They are GMOs, after all. Opponents are also concerned that honeybees will contaminate organic orchards after feasting on the hybrid apple pollen.

Plus, apple growers in the United States are concerned for their livelihoods, especially "the marketing impact, from consumer impact to the imposition of additional costs," a rep for the Northwest Horticulture Council told The Seattle Times.

But it will take a while for the apple to hit shelves in the United States, since apple trees take several years to produce significant quantities of fruit.

"Our focus is working with growers to get trees in the ground. As more trees are planted and they come into commercial production, there will be a slow, but steady market introduction," President and Founder Neal Carter explained in a press release. He estimates that Arctic apples will first be available in late 2016 in small, test-market quantities. "And, just like any other new apple variety, it will take many years before non-browning Arctic fruit is widely distributed."

Carter is confident, though, that his apple will sell, pointing to a wealth of consumer research that indicates that "a strong majority of apple eaters are interested in buying non-browning apples."

Freaky stuff.

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