British Columbia

Arctic apple developed in B.C. approved for sale in Canada

A genetically modified non-browning Arctic apple, developed in B.C., has been approved for sale in Canada, just weeks after it was approved for sale in the U.S.

Developer Okanagan Specialty Fruits now plans to sell company to U.S. synthetic biology firm

The Arctic apple on the right, does not brown like the conventional apple on the left, because the genes which produce polyphenol enzymes have been silenced, meaning the chemical reaction that leads to browning does not take place. (Okanagan Specialty Fruits)

A genetically modified non-browning Arctic apple, developed in B.C., has been approved for sale in Canada, just weeks after it received similar approval in the U.S.

The success of the fruit, developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF), has led to a multi-million dollar sales deal with Intrexon Corporation, an American company involved in synthetic biology.

Intrexon will buy OSF in an deal worth $31 million in stock and $10 million in cash to OSF's shareholders.

"Over the next couple of years, we will be working hard with our grower partners to get as many Arctic trees in the ground as we can," OSF president Neal Carter wrote on his company blog Friday.

According to Health Canada, the fruit that was the brainchild of Okanagan Specialty Fruits was subjected to a thorough scientific analysis and deemed to be safe.

"It was determined that the changes made to the apple did not pose a greater risk to human health than apples currently available on the Canadian market," Health Canada's website states, noting they found no evidence that the Arctic apple would impact allergies or that its nutritional value was in any way altered.

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"The science behind the Arctic apple is quite simple," Health Canada states. "A gene was introduced into the Arctic apple that results in a reduction in the levels of enzymes that make apples turn brown when sliced. In every other way, the Arctic apple tree and its fruit are identical to any other apple."

Two varieties of the trademarked Arctic apples will be marketed at first — the Arctic granny and the Arctic golden — with further varieties expected to be available to consumers in the future.

When news of the B.C. cultivation first emerged in 2012, a poll commissioned by the B.C. Fruit Growers' Association and a group of Quebec growers showed significant concern among the public, with 69 per cent of respondents opposing approval of the Arctic apple.

The first apples should be on shelves by late 2016.