For years, a small Canadian company, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, has been touting its Arctic apple, which doesn't turn an unsightly brown after being sliced. The US Department of Agriculture finally approved it for planting this week.
The Arctic apple uses a technique called RNA interference (RNAi) to block the enzyme that normally causes browning. The USDA deemed that the apple carries no risk for other plants. And the company is now undergoing voluntary testing with the FDA to prove its apple is safe to eat. It will still be a few years before its apple trees grown up to bear fruit.
In the meantime, the controversy over a new GMO apple is already brewing. GMO corn and soybeans are pervasive in the US food supply, but the Arctic apple will be one of the first GMO plants marketed directly to consumers. A similarly modified potato, which has fewer potential toxins when fried, was approved last year — only to have big companies like Frito-Lays and McDonald's immediately disavow them.
Getting USDA approval is a big step for Okanagan Specialty Fruits, but will customers actually flock to its apple even if the FDA deems if safe? With GMO such a toxic word, the Arctic apple will have to work hard to avoid the fate of the Flavr Savr tomato, a genetically modified tomato that never took off. [WSJ]
Top image: Okanagan Speciality Fruits