Are you a fussy eater? Do you like your food to look as well as taste good? If so, US synthetic biology corp Intrexon has just the product for you: a genetically modified apple (the Arctic Apple) that doesn’t turn brown when you cut into it. And it’s great for supermarkets: slice up an apple, stick it in plastic wrapping, and customers who can’t be arsed to cut their own won’t know whether it’s been sitting on the shelves for a day or a week. Bye bye sell by.
What’s not to like? Actually, quite a few things. First, unless you know when the apple was picked (unlikely) you wont’ know how fresh it is. You could be forking out for something that looks good but tastes bad. Second, genetic “modification” involves inserting alien genes into the host organism, genes that would never occur naturally within it. So eating and growing a GM apple could carry health and environmental risks, risks which GM companies aren’t keen to spend money on researching. Third, the GM apple is produced using an experimental, unregulated technique called RNA interference, a kind of GM on steroids. Add to this the fact that non-organic apples have some of the highest levels of toxic pesticide residues of any fruit, and that old adage about “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” looks a bit outdated. But won’t consumers refuse to buy the product when they know about it? No because GM products in the US aren’t labelled..
Finally, if the sight of a bit of brown on your apple keeps you awake at night, there’s a simple, cheap remedy to hand. Smooth a bit of lemon juice on it. Job done. No need for millions of dollars of research funding to produce more consumer crap. Intrexon, by the way, also owns the IPR for GM salmon and GM mosquitoes.
Why should we in the UK be especially worried about all this? Because when Brexit bites and the UK goes cap in hand to Donald for a trade deal, the UK will come under huge pressure to accept these and other junk products. How do you like chicken washed in chlorine, and your meat injected with growth hormones? Still, you can always finish your meal with a nice Arctic Apple. Yummy, yummy.