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Genetically Modified Apples ~ Ever Fresh & Never Brown? Part 6

Daniela Rambaldini Article by: Daniela Rambaldini
Genetically Modified Apples ~ Ever Fresh & Never Brown? Part 6

2013.11.08: UPDATE! The US Department of Agriculture is asking for public comment on a risk assessment of the Genetically Modified Non-Browning Apple. Please take the time to opine on this important ecological and public health issue.

What are genetically modified apples? It's GMO awareness month, which means the public cry against Genetically Modified Organisms (also called Genetically Engineered Organisms, abbreviated as GEOs) is in full tilt. It's therefore an appropriate time to let Canadians know that their beloved apples are also under threat of becoming unnaturally manipulated in the lab. In this 6 part blog series, I will detail the reasons for and against the proposed new breed of this delicious pomaceous fruit.

Part 6:

In Part 1, I had described the background for why a fruit growing company called Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF) based in Summerland, British Columbia, applied to Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for approval of a genetically modified apple (GM apple). In Part 2, I gave a brief background of what it means to genetically engineer an apple and I debunked the OSF's claim that GM apples safer than other GMOs. In Part 3, I discussed the potential ecological dangers and in Part 4, I described the potential biological (health-related) and economic consequences and dangers of the proposed GM apple. In Part 5 , I considered whether or not developing and commercializing the GM apple is at all necessary, let alone favourable.

Genetically Modified Apples: Final Words

Biotechnology companies have been promoting GM crops as necessary, beneficial, innocuous inventions that will solve or mitigate many of the challenges faced by large-scale industrial agriculture and food production. However, the truth of GMOs is far more complicated and inauspicious.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that consumers can’t trust industry or governments to protect the food supply, the environment, and human health from the many known and potential dangers of GM crops. Public protest is required to change the current inclination of viewing GMOs as viable solutions or panaceas for solving challenges of mass crop production or of mitigating world hunger.

The threats posed by commercializing the ArcticTM apple far outweigh the cosmetic benefit of producing a nonbrowning fruit. It therefore appears irrational to invest resources into research and development of a high risk, low benefit product such as the GM apple. Moreover, if the government approves the ArcticTM apple, it could encourage or pave the way for development and approval of other nonbrowning GM crops such as potatoes and bananas.

A recent Canadian Public Opinion Poll showed that 69% of Canadians oppose the genetically modified apple. Clearly, consumers believe that a naturally discoloured apple is more appealing than a GM nonbrowning variety, and governments and biotechnology companies should take note of consumers’ opinions. If you want to make your voice heard or if you want more information about the GM ArcticTM apple and other GMOs, you’ll find extensive information from the following resources:

Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)

Canadian Organic Growers

Non-GMO Project

Attend as many events as possible to play an active role in preventing the commercialization and globalization of genetically engineered organisms. Take action! The GE apple could be approved in Canada and the United States in less than 6 months!

Preventing Apple Browning Naturally

If you're interested in preventing browning of apples at home, follow these easy suggestions:

- Coat sliced apples with raw honey, freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice, pineapple juice, ascorbic acid powder, citric acid powder, gelatin, or agar. These coatings prevent the activity of the PPO enzymes responsible for browning (see Part 1 of this blog series to learn more about PPOs) by altering the pH of the apple flesh and/or by preventing exposure of the flesh to oxygen. Lemon and lime juice also denature PPOs and prevent copper coenzyme binding (thus inactivating the PPO enzyme). Ascorbic acid acts as an antioxidant—it causes a chemical reaction (known as reduction, which is the opposite of oxidation) that converts o-quinones back into phenols (see Part 1 of this blog post to understand why quinones and phenols are relevant to apple browning).

- Rub apple flesh with freshly sliced ginger root. This is slightly less effective than squeezing lemon or lime juice on exposed apples (see Figure 1), but the incredible flavour of ginger-rubbed apples makes this technique well worth it!

- Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of unrefined sea salt into 2 cups of water. Soak apple slices for 3 to 5 minutes and then rinse and drain.

- Soak apple slices in carbonated water for 3 to 5 minutes.

- Place slices together, flesh to flesh. Bind them together using a rubber band.

- Tightly swathe apple slices with plastic wrap or seal in a plastic zipper bag, eliminating as much air as possible (mimic a vacuum seal as best you can). For added protection, store the sealed sliced apples in an airtight container.

- Blanch apple slices. Bring a pot full of water to a boil. Turn off heat, add apple slices, and let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove apple slices and rinse with cold water. This method prevents browning by deactivating PPO enzymes. This method will also soften and slightly cook your apples, so it's not a good option if you want to eat your apple raw and crunchy. Heat will also denature and deactivate certain vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin C.

Protect apples from oxidation as soon as possible after they have been sliced. Always store sliced apples in the fridge. Avoid storing sliced apples with or near ripe fruit, including other ripe apples. To mask discolouration, sprinkle apples with ground spices such as cinnamon bark, star anise fruit, clove bud, and allspice fruit.

On November 26, 2013, Dr. Thierry Vrain, a retired genetic engineer who worked with Agriculture Canada for 30 years, and Dr. Shiv Chopra, a former Health Canada senior scientific advisor, will be speaking against GMOs at the Watermark Beach Resort Hotel in Osoyoos, British Columbia. Doors open at 6:30 pm and attendance is by donation. The event is presented by the Society for a G.E. Free B.C. You can find more information here.

Look for the Non-GMO Project logo throughout the website to buy GMO-free certified foods and products such as those recommended below.

You can download a .pdf of the article in its entirety here: