Thanks USDA: First Legally Approved GMO Frankenfruit to Hit The Market In The Form Of Granny Smith And Fuji Apples
The first commercial crop of Arctic brand genetically modified apples are set to hit the market following a U.S. Department of Agriculture approval process that has many shaking their heads in disbelief.
The apples, which are resistant to browning due to oxidation when sliced, have caused a backlash from consumers aimed at businesses like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Gerber, which have hastily backpedaled and claimed they never had any intention of selling them.
The frankenfruit first raised a controversy in February 2015 when the USDA declared both the Arctic Golden Delicious and Arctic Granny varieties safe for human consumption. The approval marked the first time the agency approved an genetically engineered food that was solely changed for perceived aesthetic improvement.
A company called Okanogan Specialty Fruits is planning to harvest its first commercial crop of Arctic Golden Delicious in Washington this year, and now with this USDA approval, they may well find their way to you supermarket–free of any “confusing” labeling that might impinge on the company’s ability to make money.
The Canadian company is also planning to grow its first Arctic Granny Smith apples this year while it awaits USDA approval for a third variety, the Arctic Fuji. And the company has formally submitted a petition requesting the deregulation of its GMO Fuji, and announced plans for its fourth variety, the Arctic Gala.
The company plans to test-market the apples in Washington state and Canada, but declined to name which packers or retailers might be involved in either the test-marketing or in its wider plans for distribution.
What the company president Neal Carter did say however was that the company plans to market the apple as though it were any other apple, regardless of its genetically modified provenance.
“What that [USDA] approval means is it’s treated like any other apple variety,” Carter said.
The genetic modification in question involves inserting an extra copy of a gene the apples already possess, one that creates an enzyme that causes the chemical reaction resulting in browning. But with the extra copies of the gene, the entire process shuts down, preventing brown apples when sliced.
However, some critics say there is much more to it than that.
Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food & Water Watch points out that this type of genetic engineering, which is known as RNA interference, is highly experimental and poorly understood and could have unintended consequences on not only the apples, but also to the people who eat them.
But hey, it’s just icky when sliced apples turn brown, right?
Sigh. One fears for the future of this benighted species sometimes.
At any rate, although current law may not require the labeling of these GMO apples yet, watch out for any apples labeled Arctic brand, or that tout their ability to resist browning when exposed to the air.