The first genetically-modified apples will go on sale in the US next month, according to agricultural site Capital Press. The fruit, produced by Okanagan Specialty Fruits and sold under the brand name Arctic Apples, were approved by the USDA in 2015 with a first harvest collected last fall.
The apples have been modified to brown less quickly than ordinary fruit, and will be sold pre-sliced in 'grab-and-go' pouches.
The apples have been altered by shutting down the genes responsible for producing an enzyme known as 'polyphenol oxidase' or PPO. When an apple is sliced or bruised, PPO reacts with chemicals in the fruit (polyphenolics), producing the browning effect we're used to seeing.
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The enzyme is found in a number of plants, and is an evolutionary defense mechanism used to deter herbivorous insects. In apples, though, it's only produced in small amounts.
By suppressing the production of PPO, Arctic Apples age and brown at a slower rate — taking three weeks to fully oxidize. Okanagan Specialty Fruits says this means that their pre-sliced apples can be sold cheaper than non-GMO varieties, as 35 percent of the cost of pre-sliced fruit comes from applying a flavor-altering, antioxidant treatment.