Field of Science

The Non-browning Apple Non-controversy

The Phactor has never considered the browning of apple flesh after exposure to air (oxygen) to be much of a problem, but then again, my attitude is sufficiently old school that the purchase of pre-sliced apples and other pre-butchered produce is considered not at all appropriate. After all knives were invented way before plastic bags, but solutions to this non-problem are in the news. The oxidative enzymatic reaction that causes apple flesh to brown is strictly a question of aesthetics; nothing else changes, not taste, not texture, so eat the damned thing. Ah, but we want our pre-sliced apples, although thoroughly butchered and in a bag, to maintain the pretense of freshness. Does it occur to any of these morons that apples with their skin intact do not turn brown? Apple slices can be treated with any number of anti-oxidant chemicals like ascorbic acid (lemon juice) and the USDA has approved a long list of chemicals that prevent browning. Now a company from the Great White North has produced a variety of apples in which the enzyme polyphenol oxidase has been silenced, rendered non-functional, so the flesh of these apples does not brown. Now again, this seems to be something no one needs in the first place, but watch what will happen, two groups will strongly oppose this GMO apple: the companies that drench apple slices in chemicals (generally quite harmless ones) to keep them “fresh” in appearance and the anti-GMO crazies. Already one group has raised concerns about “cross-pollination” of regular apples with pollen from non-browning apples. Oooo, scary! So what would happen if regular apples were pollinated by GMO apples? Nothing. The apple is the maternal genotype. The seeds would be hybrids, but we don’t eat them and we don’t use them to propagate apples. Could someone please point out the problem here? Well, it comes down to money and anti-science attitudes, and not once does anyone considered the obvious conclusion that you don't need non-browning apples of any sort.

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