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Apples May Touch Off Cross-Border Food Fight

A new food fight is brewing across the US-Canadian border. This one involves apples - not rotten ones, but non-browning ones. A Canadian grower on Lake Okanagan, just north of the border, is asking for U-S regulatory approval to sell its new non-browning apple called the Arctic Apple.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits president Neal Carter said by shutting down an enzyme which causes browning when an apple's cells are damaged - by cutting, for example, he can market apples that won't turn brown and be more quickly tossed out.

If the USDA approves, the Arctic apples would be the first brought to market in North America, and almost certain to touch off a new consumer battle over GMO versus natural foods. It might be the country's first raw product required to carry a GMO label.

Washington apple orchardists and packers generally wonder, "Why bother?" The Crunch Pak company in Cashmere, which markets sliced apples, found a way to slow down browning by adding vitamin C and calcium.

And the operator of a nearby 250-acre orchard who wants the Arctic Apple banned from markets thinks browning is a non-issue. So slices of apples go brown on an hors d'oeuvre plate, he said - so what?

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