The world’s first GMO apple will not turn brown, but is it safe?

Jan 31, 2017, 6:10 AM | Updated: Feb 1, 2017, 3:04 pm
gmo apple...
(Photo by Apple and Pear Australia Ltd, CC Images)
(Photo by Apple and Pear Australia Ltd, CC Images)
LISTEN: The world's first GMO apple will not brown. But is it safe?

The world’s first GMO apple is hitting the U.S. market next month, but it’s not a Washington apple. The Arctic Apple is produced by Canada’s Okanagan Specialty Fruits and its fancy GMO magic trick is that it will not turn brown.

“Specifically what’s done with that apple is they’ve turned off that browning gene,” said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission. “There’s nothing introduced into this particular apple to make it Frankenapple.”

Related: Chef Mario Batali on serving the Obama’s last state dinner

With all the hype surrounding GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organism), I wondered if Fryhover was concerned about an apple being genetically engineered.

“The Washington apple industry is a strong supporter of science. Science is something we use every day, whether it’s pests or disease, it provides us with new crosses of varieties so we have better tastes and textures for consumers. So in that context, we’re not against GMO from the scientific standpoint. Where we do struggle with this GMO apple is more from a marketing standpoint. Consumers are not as educated as they could be on GMO products. A lot of times there is negative response to GMOs and maybe it’s warranted and maybe it isn’t. But certainly when you’re the conventional supplier of apples out of the state of Washington; we supply over two-thirds of all the apples in the United States and represent 90 percent of all the exports from the United States into international markets, having to defend our product, conventional, versus a GMO product, is going to be a major problem for us in the marketplace.”

The GMO apple

Both Fryhover and University of California, Davis plant sciences professor Kent Bradford say there is no evidence that GMOs are harmful to people.

“People generally don’t hear about the potential benefits,” says Bradford. “They do hear a lot about the potential negatives because there are certain groups that make it their business to promote those and exaggerate them. Since we have a very strict regulatory system, before you can actually commercialize something it has to go through government review. There are three agencies involved in that, the FDA, USDA, and EPA. So they’re very thoroughly vetted before they get out. Which is good for safety but it’s hard for having examples. If we had a lot of these examples of good, positive things that are happening with this technology, it would be hard to make the argument that they’re dangerous. In fact, it’s a very slow and expensive process. For example, this apple is perfectly innocuous. All it will do, probably, is make apples more attractive and maybe kids will eat more of them. It’s been a decade, I think, they’ve been working on getting that apple through the regulatory process to be able to actually sell it.”

Both say that plants have been genetically modified for a long time, and generally it’s used to make the food safer. Bradford gives examples of a couple of experiments gone wrong, where allergens were introduced, but those products never made it to the market.

Fryhover does wonder why we need the Arctic apple when there are already apples on the market that naturally don’t brown.

“Cripps Pink doesn’t brown,” he said. “There’s a brand new apple that’s going to come available out of the state of Washington called Cosmic Crisp, it’s a non-browning apple.”

Okanagan Specialty Fruits didn’t want to comment on this story. They plan to sell Arctic versions of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples, pre-sliced and packaged. They also plan to put snowflake symbols on the apple labels to distinguish them from non-modified fruits.

  • listen to rachel belleTune in to KIRO Radio on weekdays to hear Rachel Belle.
Who is Rachel Belle?

Your Last Meal

Rachel Belle

Teenager toxic masculinity...
Rachel Belle

This teenage boy wants to help your teen be vulnerable and fight toxic masculinity

15-year-old Zach Gottlieb started an Instagram and TikTok page for teens to submit questions on topics like anxiety, breakups, and more.
16 days ago
Lab grown salmon...
Rachel Belle

Seattle CEO prepares to bring lab-grown salmon to sushi bars, grocery stores

The next generation of sustainable, environmentally sound proteins will come from actual meat and fish. Wildtype is growing cuts of Coho salmon using salmon cells.
1 month ago
Rachel Belle

No one is talking about menopause, not even your doctor

Let's Talk Menopause founder Donna Klassen says most women don't know the symptoms and most medical schools don't include menopause in the curriculum. 
2 months ago
Nadiya Hussain...
Rachel Belle

New ‘Your Last Meal’: British Bake Off winner, Spice Waala brings Indian street food to Seattle

As a child, Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, felt frustrated that her dad served watered down, westernized Indian food at his restaurants.
2 months ago
Toxic positivity...
Rachel Belle

Seattle psychotherapist on how to cope with ‘season of toxic positivity’

Telling your loved ones to look on the bright side when they're feeling down is toxic positivity, and no one likes to hear it. Not even you.
2 months ago
birthday cake...
Rachel Belle

‘Your Last Meal’ podcast explores history of why we eat cake and light candles for birthdays

We all eat birthday cake, but have you ever wondered why? Award-winning chef Christina Tosi dives in on the latest episode of "Your Last Meal."
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles


Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
The world’s first GMO apple will not turn brown, but is it safe?