GMO Apples Hit American Stores This Month: How and Why to Avoid Them
GMO Apples Hit American Stores This Month: How and Why to Avoid Them by Daisy Luther
If a food company invented a new version of a typical food and then packaged it in a box without the ingredients etc. listed on the packaging, there would be quite the outcry.
So why is it that Okanagan Speciality Fruits is allowed to market a new variety of GMO apples without telling people the reason they’re so “special” is that they are genetically modified?
While the fruit won’t be explicitly labeled as a GMO product, that information will be available by scanning a QR code on the packaging. “We are selling it under the Arctic brand and we’ve had a lot of press and attention, so I assume most people will know what it is,” company founder Neal Carter said. (source)
Note Neal Carter’s words: “most people will know what it is.”
So how, exactly, will “most people know” that the fruit they’re buying has been tampered with? Are we actually supposed to carry around a QR scanner at the store to figure out what the heck we’re buying?
What apple varieties should you look out for?
To most folks, a Golden Delicious apple is a Golden Delicious apple. And there are more fruity bullets to dodge than just the Golden Delicious. (If you’re wondering why I’m so against the genetic modification of our food, here’s a documentary you should really check out.)
By next year, there could be four different apple varieties to dodge in stores if you want to keep your diet free of genetically modified ingredients.
Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Fuji varieties have been approved by the USDA and Canada. An Arctic Gala could be approved in 2018. Only Goldens and Granny Smiths have been planted long enough to produce fruit in commercial quantities by next fall. (source)
This FDA press release was dated March 20, 2015:
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration completed its evaluation for two varieties of apples genetically engineered by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc., and for six varieties of potatoes genetically engineered by J. R. Simplot Company and concluded that these foods are as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts.
Okanagan’s Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties of apples, known collectively by the trade name “Arctic Apples,” are genetically engineered to resist browning associated with cuts and bruises by reducing levels of enzymes that can cause browning.
What the heck did they do to these GMO apples?
The apples in question have been altered to prevent them turning brown once they ‘ve been sliced. The apples will be sliced and packaged then shipped to 10 unnamed stores in the Midwest that will be stocking them.
There has been no word as yet about when the company will start marketing the whole apples as opposed to bags of sliced apples but you can bet it won’t be too far in the future as the company plans to plant a veritable forest of apple trees:
Right now, they are limited to a relative handful of trees (orchards in British Columbia and 85,000 trees in Washington state), but the company plans on planting hundreds of thousands more in the next few years in order to boost their supply. (source)
And if you’re wondering why pre-sliced apples are a necessity in our world, company founder Neal Carter explained:
“We know that in a convenience-driven world, a whole apple is too big of a commitment.”
And yes, he actually said that. I swear. You can find it here. (Insert deep sigh for humanity that can’t slice an apple.)
Here’s the genetic modification they made to the apples.
Apples turn brown when they are sliced, and the slice is exposed to air. The discoloration is due to a polyphenol called polyphenol oxidase. This enzyme has been silenced at the genetic level. You can read a good explanation of the full process from James Vincent at The Verge.
Here’s why this is not a good thing.
Back in 2000, Cornell University performed a study in which they discovered that polyphenols and flavonoids are responsible for many of the health benefits associated with apples. In fact, the lead on the study. Rui Hai Liu, said:
“Scientists are interested in isolating single compounds — such as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene — to see if they exhibit anti-oxidant or anti-cancer benefits. It turns out that none of those works alone to reduce cancer. It’s the combination of flavonoids and polyphenols doing the work.”
Lee began studying the enzymatic browning action of apples about 15 years ago, identifying a variety of phenolic compounds and learning how these chemicals work during the apple’s browning action. (source)
While it’s important to note that some of the Cornell research was backed by fruit growers in the apple industry, in this case, they were hoping for proof of what they thought all along: apples are a healthy addition to our diet. Learning that fresh apples inhibited tumor growth was a happy side discovery in that study.
When biotech steps in, it’s profit over people.
The Cornell study was looking for positive benefits.
In contrast, the agricultural biotech company that created the Arctic Apple was working on “developing tree fruit varieties with novel attributes that benefit fruit producers and consumers alike.”
Let’s translate that.
They wanted to create an apple with a longer shelf life. This extended shelf life will mean less money wasted when they pass on the older stock to unsuspecting customers.
It’s a well-known fact that the older a fruit is, the less of the original nutrients remain.