The genetic code of the apple has been mapped by researchers, paving the way for gene silencing and other manipulations by scientists to continue altering the food supply under the guise of creating healthier fruits.
Researcher Roger Hellens of New Zealand firm Plant & Food Research, said: ‘Now we have the sequence of the apple genome, we will be able to identify the genes which control the characteristics that our sensory scientists have identified
as most desired by consumers
Hellens states that he's proud of a number of things he has done throughout his career such as "making plant transformation vectors that have been distributed around the world feels pretty good...having the pictures of our research on the front covers of journals is great." So not only does Hellens love to manipulate nature's food supply, but he also loves when the world recognizes it.
Hellens is also responsible for the genetic modification of the kiwi fruit which is native to New Zealand and exported to COSTCO and several other large format grocery retailers.
The information from gene regulations of the Golden Delicious variety of apples is already being used to breed red-fleshed apples which are supposedly more attractive to consumers. After all, we wouldn't want consumers to think there are a few bad apples of any variety would we?
Ever imagine eating an apple with a desire to curb your appetite for the rest of the day? Well it's becoming a reality as genetically modified apples that suppress appetite could also be in the pipeline, with the first varieties with enhanced appetite suppressing compounds on shelves within five years.
The genetic blueprint comes after another group of scientists cracked the genetic code of wheat.
More than 60 million tons of apples are grown worldwide each year - the equivalent of 20lb per person.
Farmers need not worry about slow growth of apple trees. Now breeders will be able to screen seedlings for key genes, vastly speeding up the process while destroying the mother nature's diversity that perfectly tunes apple cultivation.
Traits that hamper production can also be more easily bred out, the journal Nature Genetics reports.
Amit Dhingra, of Washington State University in the US, said: 'Before genome sequencing, the best we could do was correlate traits with genes.
'Now we can point to a specific gene and say, "This is the one; this gene is responsible for this trait".'Or the trait might be for something desirable, like flavour in a piece of fruit.'
Hellens said: 'Understanding how important characteristics in plants are controlled is vital in reducing the time to breed successful commercial cultivars (varieties).
Their starting point is a red-fleshed apple that is naturally rich in the compounds but has a bitter taste. Do you think nature put the bitter taste there for a reason?
The research suggests that around 65 million years ago, the time when a comet is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs, the plant that would eventually give rise to the apple tree underwent a massive and rapid genetic change, in which many of its genes were duplicated.
The extra genes allowed the apple to adapt to tougher conditions and sent it along a different evolutionary path from peaches, raspberries, strawberries and other related fruits.
Although the focus is on enhancing conventional breeding techniques, the fear and reality is that the blueprints will be used to create genetically-modified 'Frankenstein crops'.
Campaign groups say farmers and researchers would be better employed growing a diversity of crops and learning how to manage them in changing environmental conditions.
If extra genes allowed the apple to adapt for millions of years,
do humans really have the right to silence those genes to enhance the consumer's palate?
When genetic engineers insert a new gene into any organism there are "position effects" which can lead to unpredictable changes in the pattern of gene expression and genetic function. The protein product of the inserted gene may carry out unexpected reactions and produce potentially toxic products.
Genetically modified foods are NOT the answer. Crop uniformity and gene altering such as the research being employed by Plant & Food Research will only reduce genetic diversity making these fruits more vulnerable to disease and pests. The unnatural gene transfers will only create new toxins and weaknesses making us all vulnerable to long-term and potentially persistent illnesses.
Fatima H. Khan is a certified nutritionist and dietician. She teaches nutrition from an anthropoligical perspective with an emphasis on native cultures and practices around the world.