If approved, the Arctic Granny Smith and Arctic Golden Delicious apples will be the second genetically modified (GMO) fruits allowed in the United States after the Hawaiian papaya.
Okanagan Specialty Fruits in Canada created the new product, and according to the company's website, Australian researchers used genetic modification to "silence potatoes' PPO (polyphenol oxidase) genes," the genes involved in browning of both potatoes and apples. Then, Okanagan perfected the technology and used it on apples.
Arctic apples produce less than 10% of PPO compared to conventional apples, which in turn prevents browning when sliced.
Unlike most GMO crops that are genetically modified to resist pests, droughts or chemicals, Arctic apples are modified to extend shelf life. Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, nicknamed the products "Botox apples."
Joel Brooks, marketing specialist at Okanagan, argues that Arctic apples' benefits expand beyond cosmetic because they will potentially reduce food waste, result in better taste and texture, and likely retain vitamin C and antioxidants that burn up in the browning process.
Arctic apples may also increase apple sales and help the foodservice industry, which does not usually use a large volume of apples due to browning.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must give Okanagan "deregulated status" for the apples before they can be sold in grocery stores.
So far, the Arctic Granny Smith has shown increased incidence of a leaf-eating bug, but for the 13 other pests and diseases tested by Okanagan, both varieties of Arctic apples have performed better or the same as conventional apples.