Remember your high school science lesson about Friar Gregor Mendel’s (see picture) work in the mid 1800s to explain genetic inheritance? Well, the apple industry has been employing genetics to intentionally breed new varieties of apples for centuries, by fertilizing the blossoms of one variety of tree with pollen from another variety of tree. Each such “cross” results in a genetically different variety of apple. Many of today’s popular varieties including Honeycrisp, Fuji and Gala all resulted from industry breeding programs.
Cross breeding is a highly laborious breeding method, especially when the goal is an apple with a specific desired characteristic. Because all of the characteristics of each crossed apple ends up also being cross bred, the offspring possibilities are almost endless. It can take decades to isolate a particular desired characteristic. Complicated? You bet. Difficult? You bet!
At its simplest, the Arctic® transformation process permits “precision breeding” by applying modern science tools to the ancient art of apple breeding. By manipulating only specific genes, we can “breed” an apple that has exactly the trait we want, without the traits we don’t want. Testing validates that the genetic transformation was successful, and our long-term test orchards confirm the viability and stability of the trees and fruit.
In an environment where our consumers are rightfully demanding rapid changes to our industry – more flavor, smaller environmental impact, better nutrition and food safety, to name a few – biotechnology and genetic modification offer smarter, faster solutions. Our success to date with Arctic® apples proves that biotechnology can work, for everyone’s benefit.