In a move designed to avoid consumer confusion, the Opal apple will carry Non-GMO labelling to set it apart from a non-browning apple being considered for approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The GMO Arctic apple is not available and has not been approved for sale, but FirstFruits Marketing, Yakima, Wash., sought the Non-GMO Project Verified certification to ensure consumers know the Opal’s slow-browning characteristic is natural.
“We want consumers to have confidence that Opal is not a GMO product and not confuse Opal with the new GMO variety currently under consideration by the USDA,” Keith Mathews, chief executive officer of FirstFruits Marketing, said in a news release. “We understand that some consumers are concerned about GMO products and felt it was important to clarify the natural non-browning characteristic is just that — natural.”
Opal is the first U.S. apple variety sold fresh that has been verified as non-GMO by the organization, according to the release. The Non-GMO Project offers an independent verification for non-GMO food and products, according to the release. Non-GMO Project verification of both organic and conventional Opal apple varieties will help consumers understand that Opal’s resistance to browning is all natural, according to the release.
The Opal apple variety, a combination of topaz and golden delicious varieties, was developed by traditional breeding techniques in the Czech Republic, according to the release. The variety was brought to market in 1999. In North America, the variety — with the technical designation of UEB 32642 — is grown exclusively by Broetje Orchards and distributed under the trademarked Opal brand name by First Fruits Marketing in North America.
The Opal variety have the golden color and sweetness of a golden delicious apple, but without that variety’s tendency to bruise. The Opal variety is also resistant to oxidation when cut, according to the release, which makes them slow to brown.
While genetically modified apples are not currently available for sale in the U.S., the Canadian-based Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. has been seeking deregulation of its non-browning GMO Arctic apple from the USDA for several years. Thousands of comments have been received by the USDA about deregulation of the Arctic apple, mostly opposed to its release.