Genetically modified apple doesn’t turn brown when sliced, bruised

Genetically modified apple doesn’t turn brown when sliced, bruised

5:21 AM, 18th February 2015
Genetically modified apple doesn’t turn brown when sliced, bruised
(Left) A normal sliced apple left to oxidize; (right) genetically modified Arctic apples.

OKANAGAN, CANADA: The US government approved a genetically modified apple that doesn’t turn brown when bruised or sliced. While most genetic alterations of plants involve making these more resilient to pests or yield more, the non-browning apples were made out of cosmetic considerations. Of course, the apples will still rot and eventually get brown, but in time and not so easily when stressed (cell rupture). But despite the government approval, voices run rampant against the genetically modified fruit from behalf of anti-GMO groups, as well as rivaling food companies.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits, a rather small Canadian company, is behind the new product. An oddity in itself considering the GM space is dominated by giants like Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer. Their intention is to address both consumer and food companies who might benefit from apples that don’t turn brown, which hardly sell in super markets. During harvest and shipping, tonne and tonne of apples get bruised, turn brown and end up in the gutter. As reported earlier, so-called ugly fruit and veggies get thrown away at a massive scale just because they don’t appeal to the market’s aesthetic standards – between 20 and 40 per cent of all fresh food is thus thrown away by farmers. Companies that process apples, like sliced apples, may also greatly benefit. It’s believed that 30 per cent of the cost for sliced apples goes into tainting these with anti-oxidants so they don’t go brown, so consumers will get to buy these 30 per cent cheaper.

When you cut an apple in half – or a banana or potato for that matter – you’ll notice it starts getting brown within a couple of minutes. This is caused by the reaction between an enzyme found in the apples, as well as in other foods, called  polyphenol oxidase or tyrosinase with oxygen and  iron-containing phenols. The fruit starts to oxidize, when electrons are lost to another molecule (in this case the air), and the food turns brown. Basically, an edible rusty crust is formed on your food. You see the browning when the fruit is cut or bruised because these actions damage the cells in the fruit, allowing oxygen in the air to react with the enzyme and other chemicals. To keep your sliced apples as fresh as possible, you need to reduce the amount of oxygen that gets to react with the tyrosinase. Putting the apples under water or vacuum packing are just a few effective ways to do this, but you can also try adding lemon juice (acidic) to reduce the pH of the exposed surface. Or, you can buy Okanagan’s apples and be done with it.

To fix the oxidation problem, the Okanagan researchers engineered their apples – called Arctic apples – so these make less of the polyphenol oxidase. What’s interesting though is that rather than snipping out the genetic code responsible for producing the enzyme, the researchers actually added more copies of the enzyme’s gene, causing the fruit to switch off the whole lot.

Neal Carter, the president of Okanagan, said the apple had “a lot of silent supporters” and would be popular with the food service business. “I can’t believe how many requests we’ve had just this morning to our website from people who want to buy trees,” added Carter.

 

© ZME News

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