First GMO apples will hit US shelves next month

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A brave new world in apples arrives in Midwestern grocery stores in February. The Canadian company Okanagan will begin selling “Arctic” apples that have been genetically modified to resist browning, reports the CBC.

To show off the apples’ talent, the Arctics will be sold pre-sliced in clear pouches, though they will not be marked as GMO products. The only way customers will know that is if they scan the product code or if the yet-unnamed stores choose to publicize the GMO angle.

“I don’t think we’re hiding behind the fact that we use that technique,” says Okanagan chief Neal Carter. “We don’t want to demonize the product by putting a big GMO sticker on it.” Plus, he adds, the brand has gotten a lot of press already.

This first test run will be small: A total of 500 40-pound boxes will be split among 10 stores, reports Capital Press. So far, the USDA has approved three varieties: Arctic’s versions of the Golden Delicious, the Granny Smith, and the Fuji, but the company expects to keep adding more.

It will, however, take time for Arctic apples to reach stores across the US in commercial quantities. The company has orchards in British Columbia, along with about 85,000 trees at an unspecified site in Washington state, but it plans big expansions over the next few years.

The apples are modified so that the enzymes that cause browning are essentially switched off, and Carter says consumers won’t notice any difference. US producers aren’t thrilled with the development, reports NPR.

“Our concern is marketing,” says the president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, who fears that people leery of GMO food will shun all apples as a result.

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