GMO Apples Arrive Next Month at Midwestern Grocery Stores

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Some fruit consumers in the Midwest will soon find that their apples won’t brown for weeks when exposed to air. That’s because the first batch of genetically modified apples are slated to go on sale in February or March of this year. The non-browning apples, which are also crispier in texture than non-modified apples, will be sold sliced and packaged by Canadian fruit company Okanagan Specialty Fruits.

The GMO apples — dubbed Arctic Apple — will be sold at 10 different Midwestern supermarket chains on a trial basis. The label will not disclose the product is genetically modified, but scanning the QR code of the apples will reveal this bit of information.

Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved genetically modified Golden Delicious apples two years ago, along with Granny Smith and Fuji apples, there has been great deal of controversy surrounding the apples. Critics and skeptics make the point that non-browning apples make it more difficult for consumers to know how fresh the fruit is and worry about its impact on human health. Meanwhile, advocates argue they’re perfectly safe and convenient, as the apples will not turn brown after being exposed to oxygen and, in turn, will have a longer shelf life.

“We see this as less about genetic modification and more about convenience,” Neal Carter, founder of Okanagan Speciality Fruits, told the Washington Post. “I think consumers are very ready for apples that don’t go brown. Everyone can identify with that ‘yuck’ factor.”

The Arctic Apples can last for three weeks without browning. Carter accomplished this by reducing an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase, which is responsible for browning when the flesh of an apple is exposed to air after being sliced or bitten. These apples don’t use flavor-altering chemical additives that are added to other fresh-sliced apples.

(placeholder) credit: Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc.)

Are GMO apples safe? Right now, the general consensus in the scientific community is yes. The USDA ruled in Febuary 2015 that the apples have “no significant health or environmental risks” and the World Health Organization and the National Academies of Science are on the same page.

But that does not mean consumers are on board. In a 2016 poll by the Pew Research Center, 39 percent of Americans surveyed said they believed GM foods are “worse” for their health than non-GM foods. Meanwhile, 48 percent believed GM foods were “neither better nor worse” than non-GM foods, and 10 percent believed GM-foods are “better.”

How these apples fare with consumers will be telling of the future landscape of GMO foods and their place in the food market.

What do you think: Would you eat an Arctic apple? Or are you concerned about the health risks? Let us know in the comments.