Arctic Apples: Consumers Warm up to Non-Browning

Arctic Apples: Consumers Warm up to Non-Browning

June 6, 2016
Food Quality & Nutrition

About 40 percent of apples are wasted globally, largely due to superficial bruising from physical impact, not spoilage. Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF), the company behind Arctic® apples, hopes to reduce that number. These fruits have been genetically modified not to brown when bruised from jostling or when exposed flesh comes into contact with air. In consumer research, the company found that the majority of apple eaters find browning to be a deterrent to consumption. But when told about Arctic® apples, 62 percent of consumers said they would be likely to buy it. That’s why a small team of orchardists and scientists created the world’s first biotech, non-browning apples. Neal Carter, OSF president and founder, tells us more.

Why do apples brown?

When an apple is bitten, sliced or bruised, its cells are damaged and an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (PPO) initiates a chemical reaction that results in the apple’s flesh turning brown. This is the primary type of browning in fruits and it’s called “enzymatic” or “oxidative” because it occurs when the fruit’s phenolic compounds react with oxygen, a process that’s driven by PPO. Secondary browning refers to the discoloration that occurs when an apple is beginning to rot or decompose due to fungi and bacteria.

How do Arctic® apples stay white?

Utilizing biotechnology to create RNA interference (RNAi), we reduced the PPO content in Arctic® apples so they do not experience enzymatic browning. RNAi is a biological process in which the production of an enzyme or protein like PPO can be adjusted like a dimmer switch. In our Arctic® varieties, the RNAi process has “dimmed” or reduced PPO production so the apples don’t turn brown. Check out our infographic describing the process of how we do it.

How do you know if an Arctic® apple isn’t good if it doesn’t brown?

Arctic® apples eventually rot just like other apples and will show secondary browning resulting from fungal or bacterial infection. Since Arctic varieties only show meaningful discoloration like this and not superficial browning, the true quality of the fruit is easier to judge!

Are Arctic® apples different from traditional apples in any other ways?

Arctic® apple trees grow and behave the same as their traditional counterparts. The fruit is just as healthy and satisfying as well. But there is one possible nutritional advantage: Since Arctic® apples don’t experience the browning reaction, which typically “burns up” healthful nutrients such as vitamin C and antioxidants, Arctic® apples retain these nutrients longer after the flesh is exposed to oxygen.

Are Arctic® apples the first foods created with an RNAi process?

No. There are already a number of biotech crops on the market that have been developed with the help of RNAi. Reduced PPO is an extremely precise change that results in a clear, simple enhancement. Many years of scientific understanding, due diligence and field trials went into their development.