US biotech company Intrexon has developed a genetically modified apple that does not turn brown after you cut into it. This means you can eat half, leave the partner on a shelf for days, possibly weeks, and it will look as pristine as the day you plucked it from the GM apple tree or supermarket shelf, or from the fruit bowl in fast food outlets (which, somewhat surprisingly, buy a lot of apples). The product has been approved by the US regulator USDA.
But will it taste as good? And will the fact it hasn’t turned brown mislead you into thinking it’s fresh? And what about the effect on apple growers? One of the big problems of GM crops is that genes from say GM oilseed rape transfer into non-GM oilseed rape through pollination by bees, which is bad news if you’re a farmer wanting to grow conventional crops. It’s disastrous for organic farmers, because any trace of GM genes will void their organic certification, not to mention the price premium. Some years ago, an investigation of the environmental effects of a GM crop trial in north-east Fife by the Sunday Times newspaper found traces of GM DNA in honey from beehives a half a mile away from the trial site.
The most worrying and depressing thing about the GM apple is how useless an invention it is. Millions of dollars spent to develop a product that no-one needs or wants. A squeeze of lemon juice will have the same effect. Or why not trim off the brown bits? Why do we need a perfect appearance in our fruit and veg, or anything else for that matter?
Intrexon is busy pushing GM salmon and mosquitos, and lining up more GM fruits for our delectation. You can bet that, if approved by USDA, the company will be splashing the cash on advertising to persuade us how much we need them. But we don’t. We need healthy natural foods, not products created from the insertion of alien genes. You are what you eat.