Non-browning genetically modified B.C. apples approved for sale in U.S.

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okanagan specialty fruits apple brown

Two types of genetically modified apples grown in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley have been approved for sale in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved two non-browning apple varieties, Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny, grown by Okanagan Specialty Fruits in Summerland. The decision was made after thorough reviews concluded that the varieties “are unlikely to pose a plant pest risk” and deregulation “is not likely to have a significant impact on the human environment.”

The company began field trials of their non-browning varieties more than a decade ago and spent the last five years pursuing U.S. approval. It says only one gene was altered and that changes were not made to pest and disease-protecting genes.

However, it will take a few years for the Arctic apples to become widely available given that it takes several years for trees to produce massive quantities of the fruit. The first products will be sold in select small, test markets in late-2016.

“Our focus is working with growers to get trees in the ground,” said Okanagan Specialty Fruits president and founder Neal Carter. “As more trees are planted and they come into commercial production, there will be a slow, but steady market introduction.”

“There are no novel proteins in Arctic fruit and their nutrition and composition is equivalent to their conventional counterparts.”

Proponents claim the new varieties could reduce food waste and enhance convenience, especially for salad bars and children’s snacks.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits is still awaiting approval from Health Canada for the sale of its GMO apple varieties within the domestic market.

 

Why do apples, bananas, peaches, pears and potatoes turn brown?

When these produces are bruised, cut and exposed to air, one particular enzyme (polyphenol oxidase) reacts with the oxygen and iron cofactors within the crop and causes it oxidize – a rusting on the surface of the crop where it is exposed. Oxidation occurs when electrons are lost to molecules in the air.

Lemon juice can help delay these crops from browning when exposed to air as it is packed with ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) which reacts with oxygen first before reacting with polyphenol oxidase. Browning of the crop will occur once the ascorbic acid is used up.

 

Feature Image: Okanagan Specialty Fruits

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