Canadian apples take a slice of Aussie GMO technology

CSIRO GMO apple technology finds North American market


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Genetically modified technology to grow horticulture market.

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CSIRO gene editing technology to stop apples browning when cut, damaged or bruised (like the one on the left) has been deployed by a Canadian company in the consumer market.

CSIRO gene editing technology to stop apples browning when cut, damaged or bruised (like the one on the left) has been deployed by a Canadian company in the consumer market.

A CANADIAN company is tapping into Australian genetically modified horticulture technology to expand its market.

The genetically modified organism (GMO) technology, first developed by CSIRO for potatoes, prevents apples from browning and it has potential to benefit a range of other crops.

As happens all too often, larger forces of the North American market spurred the Canadian biotech company Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF) to take a slice of the CSIRO’s non-browning technology before other players capitalised on our homegrown science.

OSF has branded an Arctic apples product with the non-browning technology and its first product will be snack sized bags of Arctic Golden apple slices, with more non-browning varieties expected in future years, including Granny Smith and Fuji.

OSF founder Neal Carter began working on the apples in the mid-1990s.

“I came across research from CSIRO that had managed to ‘turn off’ browning in potatoes,” Mr Carter said.

Other sliced apple products, which are typcially coated with vitamin C and calcium to prevent browning.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits' non-browning ready-sliced apples.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits' non-browning ready-sliced apples.

“My wife and I felt that we could help boost apple consumption through a biotech approach with apples, as non-browning apples would be more appealing and convenient.

“We felt this could also significantly reduce food waste, as nearly half of all apples produced end up wasted, many due to superficial bruising,” he said.

Fruit and vegetables turn brown after they are bitten, sliced or bruised because of a naturally occurring enzyme (polyphenol oxidase or PPO) that reacts with other components in the fruit cells.

When these cells are broken the enzyme mixes with other material and produces a brown pigment.

CSIRO scientists constructed an anti-PPO gene that blocks plants’ production of the browning substance.

Spoilage due to browning is a huge cost to horticulture, with wastage of damaged fruit and costly chemicals to prevent the reaction.

CSIRO said the non-browning technology, which works in apples and potatoes, could also be used in other crops, such as beans, lettuce and grapes.

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