US okays genetically engineered apples that won't turn brown

NEW YORK - The US government has approved the commercial planting of genetically engineered apples that are resistant to bruising or turning brown when sliced.

The developer, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, says it believes the non-browning feature will be popular with both consumers and food service companies as it will make sliced apples more appealing. The feature could also reduce the number of apples discarded because of bruising.

But many executives in the apple industry say they worry that the biotech apples, while safe to eat, will face opposition from some consumers. They are also concerned that it could hurt exports of apples to countries that do not like genetically modified foods.

The Department of Agriculture, which approved the apples for commercial planting, said on Friday that it had considered these issues. However, it said that under the law, approval is based on whether a genetically modified crop poses a threat to other plants. The department determined that the apples posed no such risk.

The so-called Arctic apples - which will be available in the Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties - are genetically engineered in a way to suppress the production of an enzyme that causes browning when cells in the apple are injured, such as from slicing, for example.

However, over time, the apples will still rot and turn brown.

It will take a few years for the Arctic apples to be widely available because trees have to first be planted and then become mature enough to bear fruit.

New York Times