June 19, 2018 | ° F

Apple aesthetic: say goodbye to browning

USDA approves genetically modified apples for 2016 debut

The United States does not require genetically modified food to be labeled. In some states, including New Jersey, you can pick up a piece of fruit or a vegetable that has been pumped up with chemicals and not even know it. Adding to the trend, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) just approved the first genetically modified organism (GMO) apple. Developers in Canada created an apple that is brown resistant and appears to have a longer shelf life. The cosmetically superior fruit is expected to debut in America next year. Dubbed the Artic variety apple, this remodeled apple would extend an apple's life appearance-wise, conveniently designing it to fit the American lifestyle. Theoretically, you could cut an apple at 7:00 a.m. while preparing for your day, but start eating it around noon while it still looks fresh — even if it’s not. The problem then arises when trying to identify how old a piece of fruit actually is. Presently, you know when fruit goes bad because it turns brown and develops spots. But if modifications to fruits keep them from showing their age, you might be eating something that’s a lot closer to being rotten than it appears to be. Genetically modified fruits present a benefit to wholesale distributors, restaurants and kids who just don’t like brown apples. If apples don’t turn brown as quickly as everyone is used to, then preparing foods to be plated or packed up as lunches makes the meal look more appealing to whoever is going to be eating it when they finally dig in.

Genetically modified food is already here — corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. But the drawback is that genetically modified fruits have less variation, making them more susceptible to extinction. If all of the corn produced in the U.S. become GMO and one ear becomes infected with disease, it could potentially wipe out corn all together due to the lack of disease-resistant varieties. The presence of vaccines, however, demonstrates an effective counter argument. Vaccinations are essentially modified forms of viruses and bacteria that, for the most part, work with little to no harmful effects. But people get vaccinations only once a year or once every ten years, meaning that the potential harm is significantly lower as compared to regularly eating genetically modified fruit. No one knows what the potential health risks of eating an Artic variety apple on a regular basis might be.

There is a difference between genetically modifying food to increase production so that a larger population can be served and generically modifying fruit for aesthetic. If GMO apples are cheaper to produce, then access to fresh fruits may increase, allowing Americans that cannot afford or easily access produce the ability to change their diets. Similarly, there are billions of people in the world, many of whom do not have regular access to food. If GMOs are a way to mass-produce food so that more people are able to eat on a daily basis, then there is a clear benefit. People who are starving might not care as much if the food they are eating is genetically modified because it's food they otherwise wouldn’t have. The mass production of genetically modified food presents a cure for hunger in many areas of the world by contributing to the equal distribution of food. But in a privileged nation like America, where 40 percent of the food produced is never eaten, genetically modifying food to be mass produced solely for domestic purposes will unnecessarily contribute to the amount of wasted food. A little brown on a fruit never killed nobody, and in fact, brown bananas, apples or strawberries add character to smoothies and protein shakes. So if apple aesthetic is what producers are going for, we can only hope they'll be labeled for all to see.

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