Genetically Modified Apples That Don’t Turn Brown

You know what I hate? When you cut into a delicious, juicy apple, but you don’t get to it right away. Say your chatty grandma calls or you suddenly realize it’s not the weekend and you need to be at work. When you finally do get back to that apple, it has turned all brown and unappetizing.

How many apples have been completely ruined this way? In all the years of scientific research and development, all the strikingly intelligent minds that have come up with brilliant solutions to the greatest problems that face the human race, why has no one come up with a way out of this horrific inconvenience?

Yesterday someone sent me an article and it’s as if someone was reading my mind. Thank you brilliant scientists! Canadian biotechnology company Okanagan Specialty Fruits has genetically modified (GM) apples that won’t turn brown after they’ve been cut! Is there nothing mighty science can’t do?!

“They look like apple trees and grow like apple trees and produce apples that look like all other apples and when you cut them, they don’t turn brown,” Neal Carter, company president told CTV. “The benefit is something that can be identified just about by everybody.” Benefit doesn’t even begin to describe it.

All sarcasm aside, B.C.-based Okanagan have requested approval from both Canada and the US for growing the GM “Arctic” apples, as they’re called. Apparently Galas, Fujis, Golden Delicious and Granny Smiths are slated for the “Arctic” modification. The application is, of course, fully expected to get the stamp of approval.

Again, as with all genetically modified (GM) products on the market or coming to market, this product does not benefit the consumer in any way. Apples turn brown when they’ve been oxidized, bruised or have begun to go bad. These are like built-in warning signs for us to avoid fruit that’s no longer appropriate to eat. With that warning sign taken away, we simply won’t be able to tell that we’re eating less-than-stellar fruit.

The developers of the Arctic apple say this means that manufacturers dealing with apples won’t have to take the steps necessary to prevent browning, using acids like citric acid. But it also means they can used slightly bruised or damaged fruit that would otherwise have to be discarded (or used in applesauce, I suspect) saving money in the long run. What the customer gets is substandard or oxidized apples that still look nice.

Overall, the Arctic apple seems like “GMO-lite”. It hasn’t had any foreign genetic material added in, but rather the existing gene that controls the enzyme responsible for the browning of the fruit has been manipulated. And, unlike all previously released GM foods, this one is going to be labeled with the prefix “Arctic” so customers will be able to choose whether or not to consume it. It smells to me like a PR move for the Biotech industry. Introduce a seemingly innocuous GM food to get us used to them and before we know it we’re eating spider genes in our fish and pigs with glow-in-the-dark noses.

It’s pretty obvious to me that the actual effect of gene manipulation is really secondary at this point. Apples that don’t turn brown seems like a rather trivial reason to be messing with genetic modification, especially considering the bad public image the process has. So why would anyone bother with these silly, unnecessary changes to our food chain?

As usual, it’s all about the money. Or, more specifically, it’s all about ownership of the food chain. Food can be manipulated to do this or not do that, but it doesn’t seem to really matter at this point beyond predicting what the public will more readily accept. At the end of the day it’s about ownership. If a food is invented, it’s patentable and if it’s patentable, it’s making money. As far as the biotechnology firms are concerned, the entire food chain must be owned on the genetic level. Every apple, every fruit, every vegetable, every animal, every molecule that anyone on planet Earth swallows — patented, owned and making money.

Now again, how exactly does the consumer benefit from this?

The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale, Holistic Nutritionist and trained chef, living in Toronto.

A Quick Review:

I’ll stick to what nature has provided, thanks. I’d sooner have something that turns brown with age; at least you know when not to eat it. People should perhaps consider less whether they CAN muck with nature, and consider more whether they SHOULD.