How Do You Like Them Frankenapples?


Conventional apple vs. Arctic apple
Courtesy Okanagan Specialty Fruits

In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture allowed Okanagan Specialty Fruit to begin selling their brand of non-browning Arctic Apples. The company has genetically enhanced their varieties of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples so that they produce lower levels of the natural chemical that causes cut and bruised apples to brown.

Naturally, bioluddites denounced this. "There is no place in the U.S. or global market for genetically engineered apples," said Lisa Archer of Friends of the Earth. In fact, the market for non-browning pre-sliced apples is rather large—think: fruit salad, salad bars, and kids' lunchboxes.

At my request, the company sent me some of their Golden Delicious apples from orchards in the Pacific Northwest. Over brunch in November, I hosted a taste test to compare them with organic Golden Delicious apples (also from the Pacific Northwest) and conventionally grown ones from the Dupont Circle farmers market in Washington, D.C.

The Arctic Apples did not noticeably brown, while both the organic and conventional ones did. What about the taste? None of us preferred the organic apples—a bit mealy. Instead, three out of the four tasters preferred the slightly more tart flavor of the Arctic Apples.