An apple a day…won’t turn brown in any way?
YES! Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture approved the first GMO apple, the Arctic Granny Smith Apple. Of course, with all eyes watching this new kid on the block, voices are speaking yet again about the never-ending debate for and against genetically modified foods.
So, here is the Arctic Apple 101 rundown so you can make your own, well-informed decision next time you go grocery shopping.
Why does my apple turn brown?
An apple turns brown for the same reason that your knee turns blueish purple after bumping into the coffee table. Enzymatic browning is the chemical reaction caused after the apple suffers from cell injury. Apples are not the only fruit that displays enzymatic browning. Bananas, avocados, mushrooms, and potatoes are also susceptible to turning brown. When the cells inside the apple breaks (bruising, slicing, biting), it triggers the enzyme polyphenol oxidase (PPO) to react with the oxygen and leave behind melanin which is the brown we see.
If it doesn’t turn brown, what kind of strange magic and mad science are they concocting?! It’s a Frankenfruit!
Let’s keep the strange and mad with Alice. It’s just a bit of agricultural science and biotechnology being friends- think of it like Tony Stark stepping into the Iron Suit and walking out the door as Iron Man.
Fortunately, the ‘how’ in this apple is much simpler than the ‘how’ behind saving the world as Iron Man. This process is called the apple-to-apple transformation. Scientists isolate the PPO gene and “turn it off” through a process called gene silencing. And soon after, like using a light dimmer in your bedroom, the PPO gene is so faint that there isn’t enough of the gene for the apple to turn brown.
The Arctic Golden Delicious apple made with the same process and carrying the same benefits is currently waiting for its USDA approval, as we speak.
If the USDA wants non-browning apples, does that mean enzymatic browning is bad for me?
Not necessarily. Though enzymatic browning is certainly a “yucky” factor in your fruits and vegetables, enzymatic browning is essential in developing the color and flavor compounds in our daily cup of coffee, tea, raisins, and chocolate, to name a few.
The benefits that a non-browning apple has is far more than the beauty on the outside. During the supply chain, a fruit can suffer lots of bumps and bruises. An apple that doesn’t bruise means that the producers can pack higher quantities of apples while packers and retailers will receive more apples that are guaranteed to provide the ideal eating experience.
So should I be for the GMO apple or against the GMO apple?
Absolutely! …Wait, what?
Approving the Arctic Apple is the first, tiny step in solving our world food crisis by improving the quality of our food supply and decreasing our food waste. Keep in mind that most of US crops like corn, soy, and cotton are already genetically modified and used in many of our common and staple foods and products today. The apple is simply one joining the team.
And while the process of the apple-to-apple transformation is isolated for the PPO gene and doesn’t affect anything else, there are multiple voices of concern claiming that the “Frankenapple” is without adequate research to prove the engineered genetic material entering the human body will neither affect nor be of harm to human health. Objections have also been raised for possible adverse effects and impacts to the nature (bees, animals, etc) and the environment (pesticides, herbicides, etc).
So, in this GMO war, you absolutely should decide for yourself. There is no definite “right” answer and no definite “wrong” answer. The Arctic Apple exists, among other genetically modified foods, and is here to stay.