Freshly cut apples are crunchy and sweet, and a favorite of children and adults alike. However, after a few moments those fresh and tantalizing apples turn a sickly shade of brown, lessening their appeal quite a bit. This almost immediate browning is natural, but what if freshly cut apple slices could retain their color and freshness for hours, days or even weeks?
The Arctic Apple is the first of its kind, and promises just that. It is a genetically modified apple that has been altered to remove the enzyme which causes it to turn brown once bruised or cut. The Arctic Apple was approved by the United States Department of Agriculture in 2015 and were planted and harvested by Okanagan Specialty Fruits. They are expected to go on sale in February, 2017.
By modifying the apples to refrain from producing polyphenol oxidase, or PPO, the apples are much delayed in turning brown when cut. PPO is released and reacts with other enzymes in the fruit to cause the browning effect. This is a commonly occurring enzyme in many plants, and is produced as a defense mechanism against herbivorous animals.
Since Arctic Apples do not produce PPO, they age and brown at a much slower rate, taking three weeks to fully oxidize when exposed to air. In comparison to regular apples which brown within minutes of being cut, this is quite a change.
Currently, pre-sliced apples are treated with chemicals to prevent them from turning brown. The goal of Arctic Apples is to reduce the cost and the chemicals that are associated with these pre-sliced apples already available.
“We’re very optimistic with respect to this product because people love it at trade shows,” said Neal Carter, President and Founder of Okanagan Specialty Foods. “It’s a great product and the eating quality is excellent.”
Arctic Apples will be available in select retailers in the Midwest, and will be offered in Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Fuji varieties. The retailers have not been disclosed.
Cause for concern comes from the fact that these apples will not be explicitly labeled as genetically modified. The Washington apple industry opposed the development of Arctic Apples, as they thought it might reduce apple sales in markets where people negatively view genetic modification. However, the U.S. Apple Association does not have any particular stance on the subject, simply stating that all apples are nutritious. Additionally, the USDA approved the apples after finding that they posed very little “plant pest risk,” if any. The farming of the apples also posed no significant risk to the environment.
Consumers can find out more about Arctic Apples while shopping by scanning a QR code using a mobile device, but Carter is certain that consumers will already be well-educated on the product.
“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,” he stated.
The apples will be in limited distribution next month, but are expected to be produced in larger quantities very soon.