Genetically engineered apples do not go brown

Genetically engineered apples do not go brown

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Originally published on January 13, 2014

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A Canadian biotechnology firm has developed a genetically modified apple that will not go brown when cut.

When an apple is cut, the cells are damaged which enables enzymes called polyphenol oxidase to react with oxygen molecules in air, turning the flesh brown.

To stop apples from browning, scientists insert more copies of the gene that produces polyphenol oxidase. The extra genes cause the cells to produce less of the browning enzymes in a process called genetic silencing.

However, the genetically modified apple, named the “Arctic Apple”, differs from other genetically modified foods as the additional genes are not extracted from other plants or animals.

In an interview with NPR, Neal Carter, president of Okanagan Specialty Fruits, said the genetically altered apple would significantly reduce costs for the food service industry. “Right now, to make fresh-cut apple slices and put them in the bag, 35 or 40 percent of the cost is the antioxidant treatment. So you could make a fresh-cut apple slice 30 percent cheaper.”

The non-browning apple has attracted opposition from organic apple farmers, who fear their organic orchards would be “polluted” as honeybees will spread genetically modified apple pollens. They also said their businesses are at stake because some customers who are skeptical of genetically engineered food would avoid eating apples altogether.

The Canadian firm is awaiting approval from the U.S. Agriculture Department, and according to the Seattle Times, it is likely to be granted. However, the new apples will hit the shelves a few years later as it takes time for orchards to mature into productive trees.

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