ARTICLE: Arctic Apples: combating the genetically modified stigma
The following is an excerpt of an interview posted on the Food Processing Technology website with Neal Carter of Okanagan Specialty Fruits, creators of the Arctic Apple, that discusses GMOs in the US food marketplace.
The growth, sale and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has become an incredibly controversial practise. With dozens of arguments for and against the tampering of crops’ genetic codes, many find it hard to know where to draw the line on biotechnological engineering.
Alternatively, the problems that could be solved by tailored food genes are limitless, and genetic modification of food products has the potential to change the world as we know it.
The Arctic Apple, on sale in the US from Canadian company Okanagan Speciality Fruits, is a genetically modified (GM) apple that doesn’t brown when sliced or bruised. President of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Neal Carter discusses the product’s creation, and developing opinions of GM products in the US marketplace.
Elliot Gardner: So how did you develop a non-browning apple?
Neal Carter: It’s all done through genetic engineering – we’ve used the apple’s own genes to turn off the reaction. The specific gene is called polyphenal oxidase (PPO) and it’s an enzyme that in Arctic Apples more or less doesn’t exist any longer. Its 95+% turned off, so an Arctic Apple is basically a non-browning apple.
EG: How have you managed to ‘turn off’ the gene?
NC: It’s not simple! In lay terms, what we have done is identify the PPO enzyme, isolate the DNA from that enzyme, and then reinsert it back into the apple genome, so that means you essentially have two copies of this DNA segment. What that does is create a gene silencing effect. When the apple sees this extra copy of the DNA associated with the browning gene it figures that something isn’t right, and the enzyme is chopped up. The whole plan and strategy here is to harness the plant’s own self-defence mechanism to turn off the gene.
EG: Is there still a stigma in the US about using or consuming GM products?
NC: It’s a controversial topic, no doubt about it. But it’s only a very vocal minority of people who are actively against GM crops, and we will likely never convert those people, but there are many people who are either neutral, or who don’t know much about them at all, so we have a significant undertaking ahead of us as we educate consumers around this product.
To read the entire interview, please visit the Food Processing Technology website.