Okanagan Specialty Fruits has developed an apple that represses browning. Okanagan used a technique called gene silencing to modify the apple’s DNA to produce less polyphenol oxidase which is the enzyme that causes the apple to brown. Check out how enzyme inhibition from a traditional Chinese herb can prevent bone loss.

GMO labeling

The fact that the apples are Genetically Modified will not be stated explicitly on the bags of sliced apples. Instead, the bags will have a QR code which will allow consumers to access a web page with information on the apples’ origins.

Neal Carter, Okanagan's president and co-founder, said during the SynBioBeta SF 2017 conference held in San Francisco earlier in the month, “We didn’t want to put ‘gmo’ and a skull and crossbones on the package.”

David Zilberman, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC Berkeley said, "There is nothing wrong with this from any perspective. Let’s see what happens. We may see more acceptance of GM." Overall, GMOs have been a hard sell.

They will be marketed as Arctic Golden slices and will come ready to eat without any preservatives. If the apples make it to shelves, they will be the first genetically modified food aimed at consumers’ preferences as opposed to being modified specifically for greater or hardier crop yields.

A similar apple already exists

While Okanagan Specialty Fruits and its Arctic Apples have used advanced genetic modification techniques, there already exists a popular cultivar of apple that does this, the Opal. It was produced by crossing the Golden Delicious and the Topaz cultivars. It browns very little even after hours of being exposed.

It was developed in Prague by the Institute of Experimental Botany according to the official website of the Opal, which is a registered name and protected by the European Union. Reviews on the internet are favorable so it’s unclear if the new genetically modified apples will do anything novel in the eyes of the market.

Economic potential of beautiful fruits and vegetables

If Okanagan’s Arctic Apples do indeed repress browning for extended periods of time and catch on then the consequences could be far-reaching.

Strict cosmetic standards among consumers play a huge hand in Food Waste in medium- and high-income countries. In a report done by UK's Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), as much as all half of food produced is wasted due to consumers’ "rejection of food on the basis of cosmetics characteristics." Naturally, a beautiful apple that remains fresh longer or at least appears that way could help curb rejection.

While the benefit of non-browning apples may seem only superficial, it could be an important first step in the fight against food waste.