This past weekend I threw an 80th birthday party for my mother. The food was pretty simple: veggie tray with the obligatory container of ranch dip, crackers and cheese, cute cupcakes and a store bought platter of apple slices perfectly placed around a container of gooey carmel sauce.
Concerned that the apples would turn brown right away, I put this particular platter out last knowing that the apples had been sliced since early in the morning and needed to stay covered as long as possible. To my utter amazement, the apples never did turn all that brown, even after sitting out for several hours. I figured that there must have been some kind of chemical treatment used to stop the inevitable change in hue. Through I don’t know for sure because I never looked at the ingredients, I am assuming it was something like “fruit fresh” which is a combination of ascorbic and citric acid in powder form. And the taste? Well, it was either absent entirely or on the bitter side. The apples certainly did not taste sweet like apples should so the carmel sauce was a welcome addition to the flavor palate.
Apples (and other produce like pears, bananas and potatoes) turn brown because of an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase or tyrosinase. This enzyme oxidizes, or rusts, when exposed to oxygen. 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. 
There is a company that has solved this enzymatic browning problem – for apples anyway. Okanagan Specialty Fruits, (OSF) headquartered in Summerland, British Columbia has bred species of apples (called Arctic® apples) that will not experience enzymatic browning. The technique used to accomplish this feat is described on their website here. If all goes as planned, Arctic® apples are on their way to a produce aisle near you! As the headline of my article states, I look forward to these apples of the future. They would have been an attractive and flavorful addition to my party on Saturday.
After years of hard work, regulatory hoop jumping, and many speeches about the promise of biotechnology, OSF is poised to offer its wares here in the US after the final USDA public comment period closes. I have posted two former articles about these apples here at Sleuth4Health: the first one was neutral about the biotechnology but I questioned why brown apples were even a problem to begin with. Joel, a spokesperson for the company, commented after my post and explained to me exactly why brown apples are a problem. In short, huge quantities of apples are discarded simply because of enzymatic browning. Children are not as likely to choose a healthier apple over, say, chips if it is brown. Stores can’t sell brown or bruised apples and so on. I don’t like to admit that I would pass on a brown or bruised apple, but the truth is, I probably would. I buy the prettiest apples on the cart. Apparently, so do most others.
OSF is a good company with good intentions. It is not Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta or any other multi-national biotech company. It is not “Big Food” or faceless industrial farming. It is mom and pop trying to bring cutting edge innovation with a direct benefit to consumers to market. Though the company operates out of Canada, it embodies all that the American Dream stands for.
I wish OSF well and I will be one of the first Arctic® Apple customers!
Below is the company’s blog post about the second and final USDA comment period and how your voice can be heard. The deadline is December 9. My favorable comments will appear there – with bells on.
USDA APHIS open 2nd comment period for Arctic® apples
The U.S. government has opened the second, and final, comment period on nonbrowning Arctic® apples, meaning we’re closer than ever to achieving commercialization!
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Services (USDA APHIS) has posted their Environmental Assessment (EA) and Plant Pest Risk Assessment (PPRA) for our Arctic® Granny and Arctic® Golden varieties, and are requesting public input.
This is the second U.S. comment period and comments will be accepted for 30 days, until December 9, 2013. The first comment period opened July 13, 2012 when APHIS posted for public review our 163 page petition requesting deregulation.
We previously explained the significance of the newly posted documents, which demonstrate that Arctic apples pose no environmental or plant pest risks. This is no surprise as Arctic apples have been examined in field trials for over a decade now (in Washington and New York states) and are among the most tested fruits in existence. Furthermore, Arctic apple science is straightforward in that apple genes were simply silenced and no new proteins are expressed.
It has never been more apparent that Arctic apples are as safe and healthful as their conventional counterparts, with the only difference being that Arctic apples will not brown when you bite, bruise or cut the fruit. The nonbrowning trait truly can be a game-changer, providing tremendous benefits to growers, packers, freshcut and traditional processors, foodservice, retailers, and most of all, consumers.
Please show your support for Arctic apples and the benefits biotechnology can offer the fruit industry by submitting your comments using the button below, or by following these instructions. Please contact us directly with any questions or to share a comment you’ve submitted to APHIS as we’d love to read it ourselves!
Thank you for your continuing support of Arctic apples, biotechnology, the apple industry and our goal of helping people to eat more apples!
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 From About.com/chemistry