Research team had to go to US to taste its creation

Genetic modification on Auckland apples

The red-fleshed apples developed by Plant and Food Research's scientist Professor Andrew Allan and his team are so contentious they're not allowed to eat them in New Zealand. They had to take them to the US. The cores were removed from the apples, so no seeds were present. They were triple-bagged and sealed.

Then, phytosanitary certificates were gained to get approval to move the apples from their glasshouse in Auckland's Mount Albert to the airport, and then on to the United States. Allan and the science team flew the precious cargo to San Francisco where a taste-testing panel of 50 people waited.

Plant and Food Research's Mount Albert glasshouse is a contained facility, with regulatory and logistical hurdles, because Allan's apples are genetically modified. After six years of working on the apple he was keen to understand whether the apple was a winner or a fizzer.

Eating is banned within the glasshouse – even sipping a cup of coffee is a no-no. So taking a bite of the apples within the greenhouse was out of the question. Two years spent trying to gain approval to taste-test them outside the glasshouse were unsuccessful. The only solution was to take the apples to a country where eating fresh genetically modified foods was permissible.

The apples tasted like winners, according to Allan. The blind-folded taste-testers identified them as Royal Gala apples and rated them favourably on flavour.

New Zealand's apple and pear exports totalled $700 million in 2017 and the industry has a target to increase this to $1 billion by 2022.

New types of apples such as Jazz, which appeal to European markets, have played a part in growing sales. In late-December a new apple variety bred by Plant and Food Research was announced. A 20-year breeding programme has produced Dazzle, a large-sized, sweet apple. It's hoped these qualities will make it popular in Asia.

Stuff.co.nz states that Allan's apples are stunning and it's easy to see how their appearance and novelty value could be a big seller. With their maroon-skin, and red-tinged flesh, they look different to any commercially grown apple.


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