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Genetic engineering, not magic, keeps apple slices from turning brown

Apple slices that don’t brown may seem like some sort of magic trick. But it’s not sleight of hand, it’s science.

After years of research and testing, a British Columbia company is introducing the first genetically engineered apple whose flesh does not brown.

Known as the Arctic Golden, this Golden Delicious apple is being rolled out in November to about 400 stores in the Midwest. Future plans call for wider distribution and other apple varieties.

Sold sliced and in a 10-ounce bag, the apple is the brainchild of the Okanagan Specialty Fruits company.

The company has genetically tinkered with the Arctic Golden’s genes to prevent it from producing the enzymes that cause browning. Cut the Arctic Golden apple and it doesn’t brown at all. The company got federal approval for the Golden Delicious apple and a Granny Smith apple in 2015. It got the green light on Fuji apples in 2016.

Although consumers have been split on so-called “frankenfood,” the company says its GMO apples are designed to boost apple consumption, reduce food waste and provide consumers with sliced apples made without preservatives.

Neal Carter, president of the fruit company, told

“There are certainly people against what we do,” Carter said. “But there are less people against it than two years ago or five years ago. Once people experience the apple, generally they say, ‘Hey this is just an apple.’ ”

Will consumers put aside their fears of GMO food? That remains to be seen. Although most of our food, about 75 percent, already contains some type of GMO ingredient, the federal government in 2016 created regulations requiring GMO food labeling.

Several years earlier, California tried and failed to pass a GMO labeling bill. Had it passed, California would have been the first state in the nation with such a regulation.

For its part, the Okanagan Specialty Fruits company said it understands the concerns over GMOs, but its apples have gone through extensive testing in the United States and Canada.

“Through this rigorous review process, nearly 15 years of studies have been completed and data analyzed to demonstrate that Arctic apples are just as safe for humans and the environment as other apples,” the company states on its website,

The Arctic Golden package will also have a short version of the variety’s development and offer a SmartLabel quick-response code and a toll-free phone number where consumers can learn more how the apple was produced, according to an article in the Packer, a produce trade publication.

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