The first genetically engineered, non-browning apple is now in a handful of grocery stores in the Midwest.
Marketed under the name Arctic® Apple, the limited release is an early test-run to determine if the apples will be accepted by consumers. The Arctic® Apple was not engineered to improve the nutrient quantity of the apple. Instead, the apple is marketed as a convenience food since it resists browning when exposed to the air.
According to the founder of the company that makes the Arctic® Apple, “We see this as less about genetic modification and more about convenience…I think consumers are very ready for apples that don’t go brown.”
Yet consumers have publicly opposed the non-browning apples for years, including one petition that collected nearly 130,000 signatures. According to the petition:
“The ‘Arctic Apple®’ wasn’t designed to increase nutritional value. It’s only purported benefit is purely cosmetic. A browning apple does not represent a problem. Natural solutions like applying lemon juice or another source of vitamin C already exist.
Many scientists believe the genetically engineered technology used to create the Arctic® Apple will have negative unintended impacts on human health and the environment.
The chemical compound that is shut off in the GMO apple, in order to prevent browning, also fights off plant pests. What happens when the apple’s ability to fend off insects is compromised? Growers will need to spray greater amounts of possibly even more toxic pesticides. Is this really a risk worth taking?
Apple-growing groups, including the U.S. Apple Association, Northwest Horticultural Council (which represents Washington apple growers, who grow over 60 percent of the apples in the U.S.), and British Columbia Fruit Growers Association, fear their orchards could be genetically contaminated, leading to the loss of valuable export markets and consumer confidence.
Finally, GE apples could find their way into non-GE fruit slices, juice, baby foods or apple sauce, products predominantly consumed by children and babies who are especially at risk of suffering adverse health effects.
I urge the USDA to reject this unnecessary and unproven genetically engineered apple.”
Despite consumer opposition, the USDA deregulated the Arctic® Apple in February of 2015. Once a product is deregulated, it can be sold in U.S. grocery stores. Consequently, genetically engineered apples are now marketed to consumers in the U.S. under the guise that they won’t turn brown. Yet, the USDA admitted that the Arctic® Apple will still brown just like any other apple: “Arctic® apples will, over time, age, turn brown, and rot just like any other fruit. However, Arctic® apples are genetically engineered to produce less of the substance that causes browning. When these apples are sliced or bruised, the apple flesh retains its original color longer instead of turning brown.”
To make matters worse, our children might end up eating genetically engineered apples in their school lunches. According to the founder of the company that makes the apples, “we might eventually sell them to distributors for service in schools.”
What You Can Do:
Don’t buy the Arctic® Apple. They are sold pre-sliced in 10-ounce bags as a snack food.
It might be difficult to avoid Arctic® Apples because they are not specifically labeled as GMO or genetically engineered. Instead, thanks to the passage of the DARK Act, consumers have to scan the QR code with a smartphone in order to know if the apple they are buying is genetically engineered.
If you are unsure whether or not your apple is genetically engineered, you can choose to buy organic. By definition, organic apples cannot be genetically engineered.