Would you eat a brown apple?

Have you ever cut up an apple to take for lunch, or prepared apples for a fresh fruit tray only to have them turn an unappealing shade of brown? You’re not alone. There’s nothing wrong with brown apple slices, but they certainly don’t look nice, which discourages some people from eating as many apples as they should. Apples are a healthy snack and anything that gets people to eat more fruit could be considered beneficial.

Like it or not, sliced apples that don’t brown are in demand. Many children and some adults have hard time biting into whole apples. In addition, there is much convenience in being able to eat one slice at a time, no matter where you are. Some companies are producing sliced apples treated with a chemical solution to keep them from browning, and you can find them in some schools and in places like McDonald’s and Subway restaurants, but that has its own complications, including what some say is an off-taste and additional plastic waste.

A Canadian company has developed apples that won’t turn brown, which has the potential to solve this problem and get more people eating an apple a day. In this post, I’ll discuss the chemistry behind browning and the science behind non-browning fruits and vegetables.

The enzymatic reaction that turns apples brown within minutes is a major problem for home cooks and professional chefs alike. Just Google how to stop an apple from turning brown and you’ll get 2,770,000 results, including a pretty cool at-home apple browning experiment guide (pdf) by the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology.

Phenol is the simplest of all the phenolic compounds.

Why do apple, potatoes, avocados, peaches, and many other fruits and vegetables turn brown when cut or bumped?

Phenols are a whole category of compounds found naturally in a lot of foods. Most plant phenols are fine for humans to consume and some even seem to have anti-cancer properties and slow aging, but some are toxins, some may cause cancer, and many do things like reduce the absorption of iron from food. The enzyme polyphenol oxidase catalyzes a variety of reactions among phenols. Polyphenol oxidase oxidizes phenolic compounds into quinones and then links the quinones into pigments that make the surface of light colored produce look brown. There are actually a whole family of polyphenol oxidases that each work on slightly different molecules, and each plant, animal, or bacterium may have many different genes for different types of polyphenol oxidases.

Dr. Anne Marie Helmenstine describes the chemistry behind the prevention of apple browning on About.com:

The reaction can be slowed or prevented by inactivating the enzyme with heat (cooking), reducing the pH on the surface of the fruit (by adding lemon juice or another acid), reducing the amount of available oxygen (by putting cut fruit under water or vacuum packing it), or by adding certain preservative chemicals (like sulfur dioxide). On the other hand, using cutlery that has some corrosion (as is seen with lower quality steel knives) can increase the rate and amount of the browning by making more iron salts available for the reaction.

Frank and a large Pink Lady apple. The apple was beautiful and delicious, but would have browned terribly if it had been prepared in advance for a fruit tray, salad, or similar fresh use.

All of the methods to deter browning have some effect on taste or texture, which is sometimes ok, sometimes not, depending on what you plan to do with the apples. If you’re baking a pie, or putting apples in a salad, a little lemon or salt probably doesn’t matter, but if you’re preparing apples for a fruit tray for guests to savor with cheese and wine, any apple contaminants are unacceptable.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits, a Canadian fruit breeding company in Summerland, British Columbia, has developed a way to keep apples from browning without the need for special heat or chemical treatments. How did they do it? The short story is that they silenced the gene that makes the polyphenol oxidase enzyme so that the enzyme is no longer produced. No enzyme, no browning.

As for the details, we don’t have many. If you’ve read any of the “news” articles about these apples, you know that lots of the stories are short on science and short on facts. The company isn’t telling much on their website*, and hasn’t published any peer-reviewed papers on their process (probably because they don’t want anyone to steal their ideas), so we’ll have to wait until the APHIS risk assessment for petition 10-161-01p is made public.

Until then, the AP article by Shnnon Dininny gives an important clue. USDA asked to approve GMO apple that won’t brown is pretty well researched and includes quotes from Neal Carter, president of Okanagan Specialty Fruits. Ms. Dininny writes: “the company licensed the non-browning technology from Australian researchers who pioneered it in potatoes.” Before I get into the details of how polyphenol oxidase was silenced in potatoes (and apples), there are some things that I apparently have to address, based on comments on this AP story on Grist and elsewhere. Here we go:

THE APPLES HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH MONSANTO.
THE APPLES HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH POTATOES.
THE APPLES ARE GOING TO ROT THE SAME AS ALL APPLES ROT.
THE APPLES ARE DIGESTED THE SAME AS ALL APPLES ARE DIGESTED.
THE APPLES HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH MONSANTO.

Sorry for yelling, but people just aren’t getting it, despite Ms. Dininny’s excellent reporting. Here’s hoping this post helps a little. On to the details.

RNA can bind to itself and form a “hairpin loop”, creating double stranded RNA. This structure is key to RNA interference.

I think the Australian researchers that Ms. Dininny referred to are from CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which is Australia’s national science agency), but they haven’t published anything specifically about polyphenol oxidase silencing either. They have published a lot of papers about their efforts to use RNAi, though, which leads me to believe that the gene for the polyphenol oxidase enzyme was silenced in the non-browning apples with RNA interference – RNAi for short.

RNAi is an amazing technology that can be used to shut off genes using the natural mechanisms that exist within a plant (or animal, fungus, etc). Karl has a great explanation of “RNA that Interferes” in his post Cotton like Candy and other excellent explanations can be found elsewhere, such as on the Naked Scientists site, so I won’t go over it again, except to point out that RNAi is used by organisms as a defense against viruses that carry their genetic material as double stranded RNA. RNAi just uses that natural defense mechanism to effectively shut off a gene, and doesn’t require the addition of any new genes.

RNAi can be used to change characteristics in existing plants, such as turning off the genes in onions that make you cryturning off the genes in wheat that make gluten (great for people with celiacs disease!), and turning off other allergens (such as in peanuts and apples). RNAi can also be used to add new characteristics in plants such as nematode resistance or virus resistance (both of which have been done in multiple species). It’s a very versatile tool that I expect we’ll see much more of as researchers and companies figure out new ways to use it, assuming that people can stop freaking out and actually take the time to learn what it’s all about.

Of course, shutting off a gene can cause unintended effects.

For example, a study by Cornell researchers in potato that used RNAi to reduce expression of polyphenol oxidase found that the plants also had reduced disease resistance (Thipyapong, 2004). Polyphenol oxidases seem to play a role in helping plants protect themselves and recover from disease. Note that this experiment reduced the expression of all polyphenol oxidases, not just one, and they used a constitutive promoter that is always on in all tissues. An earlier study, also from Cornell, used a tuber specific promoter so the polyphenol oxidases were turned off only in the potatoes, not in the rest of the plant, and the researchers didn’t find any adverse affects on disease resistance or anything else (Bachem, 1994).

Sometimes the unintended effects of genetic engineering can be very positive. The J. R. Simplot Company has also created reduced browning potatoes using RNAi. In a study that evaluated their potatoes compared to wild-type potatoes, the RNAi potatoes were found to have not only reduced browning but french fries made from the potatoes also tasted better, smelled better, and had greatly reduced accumulation of acrylamide, a toxin naturally produced in potatoes and other foods during high temperature cooking (Rommens, 2004).

Will these non-browning apples have negative unintended effects, positive unintended effects, or both? The truth is, we don’t know yet due to the lack of information coming from Okanagan Specialty Fruits. We’ll just have to wait for that APHIS risk assessment for petition 10-161-01p to see the details of the non-browning apples, but we have a hint in the review Plant Regeneration and Transformation in the Rosaceae (pdf, Rosaceae is the family of plants that includes apples):

Multiple years of field testing of this material confirmed the stability of the non-browning phenotype and have identified no negative impacts on horticultural traits, or on resistance to diseases and insects when grown under field conditions. The non-browning technology developed at [Okanagan Specialty Fruits] has been incorporated into a new enabling platform that: (i) eliminates the selectable marker, (ii) removes all interfering [intellectual property], (ii) uses only plant derived gene sequences and control elements, and (iv) improves the efficiency of gene silencing. Plants arising from this series of transformations are now entering field trials.**

Fruit tray by Tim Inconnu via Flickr.

Remember that fresh fruit tray that this post started with? Which would you prefer – apples treated with chemicals or heat, apples bred to brown a little more slowly, or apples engineered to silence the enzyme that causes browning?

I know what I’d choose for my lunches and for fruit platters that I’d present to my friends and family. Here’s hoping that these apples make it through the regulatory hurdles and lawsuits by activist groups, are planted by a farmer nearby, don’t get uprooted or otherwise destroyed illegally by activists, and make to my table.

.

ResearchBlogging.orgAldwinckle H, Malnoy M (2009). Plant Regeneration and Transformation in the Rosaceae Transgenic Plant Journal (3 (Special Issue 1)), 1-39

Bachem C, Speckmann G, van der Linde P, Verheggen F, Hunt M, Steffens J, & Zabeau M (1994). Antisense Expression of Polyphenol Oxidase Genes Inhibits Enzymatic Browning in Potato Tubers Bio/Technology, 12 (11), 1101-1105 DOI: 10.1038/nbt1194-1101

Helmenstine AM (2005). Why Do Cut Apples Turn Brown? About.com Chemistry. Accessed 1 Dec 2010.

Rommens CM, Ye J, Richael C, & Swords K (2006). Improving potato storage and processing characteristics through all-native DNA transformation. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 54 (26), 9882-7 PMID: 17177515

Thipyapong P, Hunt MD, & Steffens JC (2004). Antisense downregulation of polyphenol oxidase results in enhanced disease susceptibility. Planta, 220 (1), 105-17 PMID: 15300439

* If anyone from Okanagan Specialty Fruits reads this, it would probably be useful to have a little more info on your website. I know intellectual property is important, but some information is needed. You’re going to have rampant rumor and fear mongering no matter what, but additional info would really help people like me to do a good job of reporting the science. Also, using the trade name Arctic for these apples might not have been the best choice, in my opinion, because it brings to mind anti-freeze genes that we all know get people really freaked out (to anyone else reading this, no, non-browning apples have nothing to do with fish genes, anti-freeze, or anything like that at all). Edit: since I wrote this, Okanagan has been doing an excellent job of communicating about their product. We featured a Q&A with Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ president Neal Carter on 18 July 2012. They also have a very active Twitter account @ArcticApples.

** This information was from a seminar given at the 1st International Symposium on Biotechnology of Fruit Species, 1-5 September 2008 in Dresden, Germany by J Armstrong and N Carter titled “A new addition to the buffet”. Unfortunately, the text is nowhere to be found. The conference’s website didn’t have any presentation texts and it’s not available on Web of Knowledge either.

Anastasia is a Board Member of Biology Fortified, Inc. and the Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. She has a PhD in genetics with a minor in sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University. Her favorite produce is artichokes! Learn more about Anastasia at about.me. Disclaimer: Anastasia's words are her own and views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of her employer(s). She is not paid to blog or conduct any social media activities. Any mention of a specific company or product does not indicate endorsement of that company or product.

Posted in Science
33 comments on “Would you eat a brown apple?
  1. Apparently Andrew Kimbrell of theCenter for Food Safety has called the non-browning apples “botox apples” and that quip has made the rounds. I for one think it’s a stupid analogy. If we’re going to call a sliced apple a human face, then the non-browning trait is like great genes that produce healthy beautiful skin despite environmental factors. Lemon juice and other treatments to artificially keep apple slices from browning are more like botox, or at the minimum “makeup” to help keep the “face” looking pretty.

    On a Marketplace segmentWould you buy a botox apple?, Kimbrell says: “[we] are actually concerned that by not turning brown it may not alert cooks and consumers to the fact that these apples are spoiled.”

    No offense to Mr. Kimbrell, but this is pretty stupid too. Bagged apple slices that are treated with chemicals can supposedly last up to three weeks, way longer than untreated apples would last. I have unfortunately had a bag of sliced apples from McDonald’s, and I can tell you that three weeks is way too long. They were slimy and pretty disgusting. If Mr. Kimbrell has a problem with non-browning apples then he should have as much or more of a problem with chemical treatments. The silencing of polyphenol oxidase doesn’t affect spoilage while the treatments do supposedly reduce spoilage, or at least keep the slices looking white in the bag whether or not there is spoilage.

    These totally non-science remarks might be due to the fact that Kimbrell is an attorney and has no training in food science, biotechnology, biology, or anything related. Although, Bill Marler seems to know what he’s talking about with food science and he’s also an attorney with no biology related training, so I have no idea.

  2. MaryM says:

    Wait, isn’t botulism toxin a natural product anyway? It’s organic!

  3. c_rader says:

    Anastasia, one of the comments I saw, on yahoo’s news, was from someone who claimed that the enzyme that makes the apple brown is necessary to make the apple digestible. Of course, that’s nonsense – and the intellectual content of many of the comments is not much better.

    But I had fun with a counter comment. Cooking apples deactivates the same enzyme. So this ignorant comment was an attack on the old favorite American institution of apple pie.

    Next will the anti-GMO propagandists be attacking motherhood?

  4. Eric Baumholder says:

    I’m not a big fan of this development. Its initial appeal is obvious. However, its use is problematic.

    Consider, for instance, the track record of ready-mixed green salads, sold in plastic bags. You’re more likely to contract a food-borne illness from ‘convenience salad’ than if you buy the whole leaves and tear and mix yourself.

    Some proponents of the non-browning apple tout its ability to say fresh-looking longer, which means, more opportunity to pick up a pathogen that normally wouldn’t get past the skin of the apple.

    Of course, this misgiving is testable, and therefore possibly unfounded. Any idea if this has been looked into?

    • Your argument fails when we consider that there are already pre sliced apples served in plastic bags all over the place. The potential danger of pre-prepared fruits and vegetables is not unique to non-browning apples.

      I know the company that created the non-browning apple is saying they’d be good for the pre-scliced bagged apple market because they wouldn’t require chemicals to keep them looking nice, but I think that’s wishful thinking. Sliced apples in a plastic bag would still need some sort of anti-bacterial preservative or at least irradiation to prevent bacterial growth if the apples were to last longer than a few days, and I’m 100% sure that any bagged apple manufacturer has food safety scientists who would know that.

      With that said, dry sliced apples aren’t really an attractive place for bacteria. As long as the apples are washed prior to slicing and cutting equipment is clean, sliced apples are not a food-borne illness hazard, especially if they’re covered and refrigerated until needed, then left at room temperature no longer than 4-6 hours, which would be the case for just about all fresh uses of apples.*

      The ability of the non-browning apple to stay fresh looking longer does have huge potential for the home cook, restaurants, caterers – anyone who might want to cut up apples a few hours prior to serving them but doesn’t necessarily want the apples to be wet and either sour or salty.

      I could have really used non-browning apples for Thanksgiving. I brought a salad of baby spinach, sliced pears (but I would have used non-browning golden delicious if they existed), pecans, dried cranberries, and bleu cheese. Dinner was about an hour drive away, so if I’d cut up the pears ahead of time, they would have been brown and disgusting. Instead, I had to arrive early and get in the way of the hostess trying to cut up my pears and dip them in lemon juice before adding them to the salad. By the time the guests were all ready for dinner about 30 minutes later, the pears were already brown despite the chemical treatment, and they were all wet and sticking to the spinach. It still tasted great, but appearance and convenience could have been much better if I had non-browning apples.

      They’d be really useful for school lunches, whether prepared at home or at the school. Parents could slice apples the night before or in the morning for their little ones that can’t bite into a whole apple and bag them or put them in a reusable plastic container for the next day. The children would have a healthy addition to lunch that wouldn’t look brown without the addition of any sour tasting solution on the apples. People who prepare lunches at schools could cut up fresh apples in the morning and not have to worry about them looking all brown (and rejected by students) when the apples are served a few hours later. This has the potential to save time and money. Whole apples are cheaper than bagged apples. No additional chemical treatment is needed which saves time and a little money.

      *I’m not just making up the food safety stuff, I was previously a food service facility inspector in the Army and pretty much memorized the relevant regs.

  5. FeedTheLiving says:

    How about a fresh cut apple? That would cut down on packaging.
    Can’t bite into an apple? Someone once engineered a knife.

    What a waste. I predict market flop. You’re only hope is to keep it from being labeled as GMO, because that would really tank it.

    • Totally, every child taking an apple to school should just bring a knife with them. Problem solved! Great job!

      • FeedTheLiving says:

        You’re right. Kids not old enough to bite an apple often go to schools with no adults and no utensils. I’m glad that now a child wandering about in a post-apocolypse barren wasteland devoid of adults will now be able to rely on the pre-sliced apple for their survival. This is important work.

        • Hello, “Feed”. You started out pretty snarky. I just followed the snark where it led, but that was petty of me. I apologize. Can we try to talk about this? You seem to have a problem with the non-browning apples because they offer a consumer benefit you don’t need or want.

          Have you ever purchased a frozen pre-prepared meal? How about sliced cheese or lunch meat? Pluots? Seedless watermelon? Individually packaged anything? There are a lot of foods out there that no one really needs. They are created for convenience, for fun, they might be innovative or just plain boring… but entrepreneurs keep coming up with new things all the time. Should they?

          I don’t buy individually wrapped yoghurt, and I think it’s a terribly wasteful thing to produce, but I recognize that a lot of people want to buy it. Would it make any sense for me to say that because I don’t want individually wrapped yoghurt then no one else should get any? Because that seems to be what you are saying about the non-browning apples. We all have the freedom to buy or not buy whatever we want. These apples will be clearly labeled “Arctic” so it will be easy for me to choose them if I want, and easy for you to avoid them if you want.

          If you have concerns about safety, or even the ethics of what Okanagan Specialty Fruits is doing, then let’s talk about that. But if you’re just saying that OSF shouldn’t be able to produce these apples and that no one should be able to buy them just because no one needs them, then you might want to think about all the other things out there, foods and everything else that no one needs, and whether you think people have a right to make and buy those.

  6. Eric Baumholder says:

    I learned from my late father — a child of the Great Depression — how dried apples were prepared. You slice the apples and lay them on perforated screens, which stack somewhat like a chest of drawers, except the drawers were only about 2″ tall.

    Next, put a small pan containing sulfur underneath the whole contraption, and set it on fire. (I’m not sure about the combustibility, but if it is a problem, it could be solved with a bit of saltpeter.) This is said to prevent the apples rotting prior to becoming dry.

    Once the sliced apples were thoroughly smoked, they were left in the warmest driest place you can find until dried out completely. Once dried, they could be stored nearly anywhere that didn’t have a mouse problem.

    And in the middle of winter, a few cups of hot water and a few handfuls of dried apple, and you could make yourself an apple pie, tasty as can be.

    So we’re either dealing with a superstition, or there actually is a good reason to not leave fresh-cut apples just laying around for very long.

    Oh well. And there’s still another issue: labeling. Not because the whackos will want it, but because the producer will *want* to communicate to the consumers that these are *special* apples that won’t go brown on you. In Britain, Sainsbury’s tomato paste was voluntarily labeled so that the consumer could understand what made it better than the other stuff. Will the same be done with the non-browning apple? We should start a betting pool.

    • Very long being how long? Your story is for apples at room temperature and for a few days. I’m talking less than a day, refrigerated until needed. Not the same apples.

      The company already said they will be marketed as “Arctic _” where _ is the variety. Arctic Golden Delicious, and so on.

  7. Matt DiLeo says:

    All my college friends still remember the biology lab where we learned that “tyrosinase” turns cut fruit brown. And I can still hear my microbio professor freaking out about what was then the new trend of selling fruit slices wrapped in plastic (and in his opinion exposed to contamination for no reason).

    Clearly there’s a market for pre-cut fruit though b/c i see more of it every time i go to the store. This year I noticed half melons shrink wrapped with strawberries in their cavity (a sure recipe for gray mold) and “stew” mixes of parsnips, potatoes and greens. With a nice value added charge, of course;)

    • I’m not too excited about pre-prepared produce for the reasons you mentioned. If it’s a fruit salad that I’ll eat immediately, fine, but I have a tendency to buy food and have it sit in the fridge for a few days before I fit it into a meal. Still – for people who are really busy, there is some merit there. If you have no time but want to cook fresh fruits and vegetables for your family, then a fresh stew mix tossed into the crockpot with some broth could be a really great way to do that. As for the 1/2 melons – I live alone right now so a whole melon is too much – I have to eat nothing but melon for 2 days to get it eaten before it goes bad. I’ve tried freezing part of it, but the result isn’t pretty.

      Anyway, this apple has a lot of potential for the reasons I mentioned. School lunch programs, caterers, restaurants, parents making kids’ lunches, party trays etc – anytime you want to cut up an apple now to eat/serve a few hours later.

  8. Neal Carter says:

    As the developer of Arctic apples it has been fascinating to learn of this website and see Anatasia’s great discussion intro and the comments that have followed. It has been a crazy media week us and it is too bad we couldn’t shed some insight into your questions sooner. Our Arctic apple petition happened in April/10 and then this popped up late last week. We thought the media story was going to be next summer (or so) when APHIS went for public comment. So, we need to work harder to get the website improved and a FAQ’s section prepared, etc. We actually have a new Arctic apple site almost ready.

    As a small, grower suported company we certainly are unique in this business. We may NOT have the science horse power of multinationals, but we are very excited about our Arctic apple varieties and see a clear benefit stream to all those along the value stream (consumers, growers, packers, retilers, foodservice, etc.). This makes the product unique among GM crops.

    Silencing Polyphenol oxidase (PPO) to get a PPO inhibited non-browning apple is like flipping a switch. Once turned off, the tree behaves exactly like its parent but the PPO reaction is turned off and the fruit does not go brown. What we mean by that is that it does not go brown due to primary browning, in time secondary browning and rot will certain occur.

    It was mentioned that to use Arctic apples in making freshcut apple slices processors will still need to use an antibacterial/ fungal dip and this is correct. I think the media folks cut that part of my comment. The use of anti-oxidants to inhibit PPO will no longer be required (or can be substantially reduced), but proceesors will still have to look after other possible fruit decay issues.

    Keep up the great commentary and I will try to particpate as time permits.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by! I am really looking forward to seeing the new site.

      I can’t tell you how glad I am that Okanagan Specialty Fruits is working on traits like non-browning. There aren’t many consumer traits on the market, and most traits that do exist have been developed by large multinationals. Okanagan Specialty Fruits is evidence that biotechnology has great potential apart from corn and soy.

      • Ewan R says:

        Or beets or canola or wheat or alfalfa or eggplant(etc!) =p

        I have some questions for Neal –
        what are the projected costs to get regulatory approval for your trait?
        Which markets will you be seeking approval in (ie will you be targetting domestic only (in whatever country) or to get full value will you require multiple international approvals?
        With the above two questions in mind what is your approximate timeline to market?
        And to top that – what is your view on consumer acceptance of a self identified GM product, essentially the first of its kind which will be made available – I think this has the most scope to be either utterly catastrophic or to be (and pardon the corporate parlance) completely game changing – the pessimist in me forsees a lot of troubles in having anyone accept this.

        And on a slightly less serious note – I assume the benefit to retilers (I’m guessing these are the folk who come and fix a bothced home improvement project) is that their lunch won’t go brown so quick?

    • Thanks for commenting, Neal. I bet things have been crazy over there, particularly as this is a crop species that has no available genetically engineered varieties yet, and the trait is unique and intriguing. Do let us know when you’ve got more info on your site so we can link to it.
      Thanks for clearing up the issue about preservation treatments. So it sounds like the claims of not being able to tell when the apples are bad anymore are off-base. What I think this will certainly change is the ability to slice apples and leave them out for a couple hours, say in a school lunch cafeteria and not have them go brown and unappealing. I think if you frame them in terms of increasing the appeal of fresh fruits (versus french fries and candy) for kids, people might understand some of the potential public benefits.

      The twitter and blog chatter has been interesting, too. The most common reaction I have seen is the claim that apples should brown, otherwise there is something wrong about it. But if a natural mutation in this enzyme was found and bred into apples, you could potentially get the same thing, but I’ll bet that the same people would welcome it. As with many other examples, the real objection is not being put on the table.

      Let’s hope that if approved, we can see some Arctic apple varieties in nurseries for people’s back yards!

  9. jonathan says:

    I’d rather eat a slightly brown apple slice.

  10. Neal Carter says:

    I can see that I will have limited time to keep up with your questions and comments … will do my best!

    Anatasia, thank you for the positive words … need these moral boosters!

    Ewan, to addres some of your questions … regulatory is costly but not as much as most big firms will say; we are pursuing regulatory approval in Canada and the USA, right now we are a bit further ahead in the US; retailer benefit relates to reduced shrinkage due to superficial bruising that occurs while fruit is on display.

    Karl, yes things have been crazy … never experienced anything like it. While I answer the phone I get 3 new messages, so at this rate I will never keep up. I received your email (didn’t think emails we part of this??) and we do plan a video on the new site. We have a very cool video now using the Arctic Granny, but we are told it doesn’t have high enough resolution for the web, plus it is too short. Plan to redo it similar to what you suggested … time lapse series with control fruit over many days.

    Generally, people say so many different things but at the end of the day they buy with their eyes and that means they buy the best looking fruit. As an orchardist people tell us they like small fruit (easier to eat, good for kids, etc.) but we can’t market them or get only 6 cents/lb for them. They tell us they don’t mind slight bruises, but we can’t sell them and they go to juice. So, we strongly believe that Arctic apple varieties will be unique and will build market share through people trying them and having a great experience.

    • GregH says:

      All I can say is good luck! I know a lot of people might be complaining about it now, but this could be the thing that shows people that, hey, maybe GMOs aren’t these Frankenstein monsters. Maybe, I hope, if people start seeing the utility for themselves, it might go a long way.

      Can I ask a question? First, how do you plant on selling these to growers? What I was told was that growers, while not opposed to biotech crops themselves, are a bit edgy about spending the time to wait for the trees to mature with the worry that some protesters might run around saying ‘Yarg, those apples cause cancer!’ and then they’re out for those years. Since this isn’t driven by disaster like the GM papayas were, how well do you think they’ll sell? Do you think they’ll be grown more for some sort of processed apple, or fro fresh selling? And, any chance of us home growers being able to pick up a tree? :)

      Also, and it’s probably silly, but have you ever considered using, not just standard varieties of apple, but a few that could maybe score points with the people typically protesting this sort of stuff? If you use some less commonly cultivated variety, like Cox’s Pippin, giving it a boost to shipping ability, they can’t play the ‘GE destroys biodiversity’ card, and if you use a pollen sterile one like Winesap, they can’t complain about cross pollination, which I know isn’t really relevant in the apple industry, but well, people will claim it nonetheless. Assuming even trying would make a difference is probably wishful thinking.

      Anyway, good luck to you all. I love seeing cool things being done with fruits, and I hope you guys become wildly successful and make a bunch more. Don’t let the naysayers get to you!

  11. john blue says:

    Great post:) The clarification on The Apples not having anything to with Monsanto was pretty funny. But that also highlights the challenge any new plant,food, or ag development faces: If it is not “natural” then it is “bad”. And the generated FUD by implying something is bad or not natural is great press, gets people talking, which spreads even more FUD.

    FUD=Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt.

    Thanks again for the great posts,
    John Blue

  12. john blue says:

    I have to share this from my wife:)

    “The “RNAi” they talk about in the article is the “siRNA” I used in my thesis to deplete cells of DAPK. I think that may be the first commercial use of siRNA I’ve seen!!”

  13. Neal Carter says:

    We are talking about gene silencing due to interfering RNA. However, we have some field testing underway focusing on transient gene silencing which would be driven by siRNA. If this can be figured out this would change everything.

  14. regina says:

    i rather prefer a brown apple, than one loaded with chemicals.
    spray lemon juice over apple pieces, just as for avocados.

  15. locksygold says:

    I would definitely prefer to eat a brown apple than risk becoming a human guinea pig for the Biotech companies that seem to have nothing better to do than play with Apples and Potatoes. What about curing disease? A far better outlet for the technology. I hope none of these apples are planted in any fields anywhere near me or infect other non-engineered apple crops as has happened with genetically engineered wheat. I will certainly do my best to ensure that no engineered apple makes it’s way onto my family’s table by continuing to buy and support locally grown organic apples. Recent trials using GMO foods on rats have shown the altered genetic material can be found building up in the liver, we don’t yet know the long term damage that this could cause. Food for thought…

    • Hi Locksygold, there are some traits that have the potential to prevent or cure disease, particularly nutritional deficiency. Golden Rice and BioCassava Plus are two examples of that. As for “infecting” other apples, that’s not how apple traits are spread so there’s no worry of that. Unless you are growing an apple tree from seed, and you picked that apple from a field adjacent to a non-browning apple orchard that flowered at the same time, you won’t find that happening. And you might be more upset about the apple seed growing into a weird variety that might not taste good because it was a mix of two other varieties – all bets are off when you grow apples from seed. Also, there is no genetically engineered wheat on the market. I am not aware of any studies that find “altered genetic material” building up in livers, perhaps you could provide a link to the source of that claim?
      Unfortunately, as demonstrated here, a lot of dislike of genetically engineered crops is fueled by a lack of knowledge about the relevant biology. But that’s why we’re here…

  16. niel brown says:

    if we eat the browned portion of apples which probably contains ferric ions, how will that effect our body system? and does that really contain ferric or ferrous ions?

    • OrchidGrowinMan says:

      Niehl,

      Conservation of mass.

      The elemental composition of browned vs. non-browned apple is necessarily the same (within reason: air constituents may be involved), but the forms/structures/states may have changed: any iron atoms are still iron atoms, etc., though their chemical state may have changed (+2 to +3 oxidation, chelation, etc.). The same goes for carbon and the rest, except there are sometimes a lot of different possible ststes. In particular, the browning is due to the oxidation of molecules that contain a phenol moiety; they become coloured. Changes that are more important (nutritionally) are things like cooking and rotting: rotten foods may contain the same elemental composition, but rearranged, e.g. by a fungus, into toxic or noxious compounds. Cooking can cause important molecules like ascorbate to be broken or recombined into less salubrious ones, or it can, as in the case of carrots and tomatoes, reduce impediments to the value of nutrients.

      Food chemistry is fascinating, partly because it is soooo complicated! Cooking and rotting (and ripening!) are MUCH more extensive modifications of composition than any genetic modifications I can envision being attempted; we should definitely be more concerned about those than “bruising” (or whatever you call this apple-browning) or genetic modification.

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