Okanagan Specialty Fruits® (OSF) is committed to improving the food we grow and consume through safe, precise, ground-breaking science and we strive to be at the forefront of the latest genetic techniques. We see the benefit of using every tool in the toolbox to develop new products, including utilizing genetic engineering and advanced molecular biology tools. We believe strongly in their value; with our focus being on using tree fruit genes to develop new tree fruit varieties, including Arctic® apples.
Primary browning in apples takes place when the fruit’s phenolic compounds react with oxygen. This oxidation process is driven by an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (PPO), which we silence in Arctic apples. When an apple’s cells are ruptured – by bruising, biting, or cutting – the browning reaction begins when PPO reacts with phenolic compounds.
Because Arctic apples don’t show superficial damage from enzymatic browning but do show secondary browning when they begin to rot, it’s easier to judge the true quality of Arctic apples.
We silenced the apple’s PPO genes using genes isolated from apples. To create Arctic varieties, our low PPO-producing gene sequence – dubbed GEN-03 – is inserted into the parent cultivar’s DNA. A promoter (CaMV, derived from the cauliflower mosaic virus) and terminator (nopaline synthase) gene sequence start and end that transformation process.
Our scientists introduce this trait into leaf tissue, which grows into a tiny tree. After additional growth, a portion of that tree is grafted onto a commonly used apple rootstock.
Arctic apples are one of the most studied foods of all time. They have been rigorously reviewed by reputable regulatory teams at the USDA, FDA, CFIA and Health Canada. Multiple regulatory reviews and extensive field trials (and over 10 years of data and studies) have demonstrated that Arctic apple trees grow, respond to pests, flower, fruit, and harvest just like any apple trees under the same growing conditions.
Arctic apples are also just like other apples in terms of their nutrition and composition, they just have the added benefit of maintaining their orchard fresh color and flavor.
When apple cells are damaged through biting, slicing, and bruising, the damage causes polyphenol oxidase (PPO) enzymes to react with the fruit’s phenolic content. This results in a brown-toned melanin that stains the fruit. With the help of bioengineering, OSF has successfully silenced the PPO enzymes – ensuring more apples are eaten and fewer are wasted. Learn how we did it!
An easy way to understand our science is to think of it as a light switch. Arctic apples use the apple’s own genes to simply "turn off" the PPO enzymes that make apples turn brown when they are bitten, sliced, or bruised. This is accomplished through a process called RNA-interference (RNAi), a naturally occurring pathway frequently used in agricultural bioengineering.
Looking for an interesting story idea? Arctic apples are one of the first fruits or vegetables bioengineered specifically for a consumer trait. Get in touch with us for more information, quotes, and images on the sustainable solutions that our science provides.