Yes, it’s true, apples are being genetically engineered, but in this case, it may have some benefits, not the least of which, as suggested by the writer below, is getting a toddler not to recoil at the sight of a brown slice of apple. This could be a great example of a non-controversial application of transgenics or genetic engineering. (I have always maintained that there are beneficial uses of GE technologies but we don’t often hear about them.)
The genetically engineered (GE) traits most commonly inserted into commercial crops are tolerance to herbicides such as Monsanto’s glyphosate weed killer, Roundup, and pest resistance, often via internal production of pesticides. These traits, harvested from bacteria, are controversial. And a tenacious community of opponents of GE crops, who prefer the phrase “genetically modified organism” or GMO, has emerged. Nonetheless, in the U.S., 88% of corn, 93% of soybeans, and 94% of cotton is genetically engineered, according to 2012 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
No evidence that Arctic apples are unsafe has come to light nor has any reasonable mechanism by which they could be. Okanagan triggers a selective gene-silencing pathway and inserts a selection gene that is broadly recognized as harmless to humans. Even skeptical experts usually don’t assert that any of the GE foods currently on the market are dangerous.
The real concern is that existing regulations wouldn’t be able to catch a truly dangerous product, or one that could contaminate other plants through cross-pollination.
Bettenhausen goes onto say that this engineering feat may actually improve the nutritional value of the apple. He writes:
The main browning reaction in apples starts when a dicopper enzyme known as polyphenol oxidase, or PPO, oxidizes certain phenols to quinones. Subsequent reactions polymerize the quinones to form melanins and other dark-colored polyphenols. In intact apples, PPO is kept away from its phenolic substrates, but damage to the cells from cutting or bruising brings them together, which results in browning at the site of the wound.
PPO’s substrate phenols are antioxidants, so keeping them from converting to quinones actually improves the nutritional profile of the apple.
The two types of apples currently being engineered are the Granny Smith (pictured above) and the Golden Delicious. According to Bettenhausen, these non-browning genes may soon get the green light in the U.S.
Here’s what I say: Though this application of genetic engineering appears non-threatening and I’m not opposed to it in any way, what’s the big deal about eating a brown apple? Drizzle lemon juice or vinegar on it so it won’t turn brown in the first place. Do we have to whitewash EVERYTHING in this country? ~Julie@Sleuth4Health