FirstFruits Marketing CEO Keith Mathews Answers: Are Opal Apples a Non-GMO Product?

FirstFruits Marketing CEO Keith Mathews Answers: Are Opal Apples a Non-GMO Product?

YAKIMA, WA - Is it, or is it not a GMO product?  That’s the question swirling around the popular non-browning Opal Apple marketed by FirstFruits Marketing. Keith Mathews, CEO of FirstFruits, tells me that no, the variety is not genetically modified but actually the result of cross-breeding different varieties to bring together the best attributes for the apple.

If you don’t believe Keith, then believe the Non-GMO Project Verified certification given to the apple just this past year. Non-GMO verification is the only independent verification in North America for non-GMO foods.

Opal Apples

About a year ago, the press started picking up news about a new GMO apple that does not brown and many mistook it for the Opal. “So, we turned to the Non-GMO project, an exceptionally high-level scientific evaluator, to help us verify our apple,” said Keith.

Keith Mathews, CEO, FirstFruits Marketing“Opal was actually first developed in Czechoslovakia 19 years ago. Ralph Broetje, Founder of Broetje Orchrds, came across the apple and decided to try it out in the U.S.,” Keith tells me.  “When you move micro-climates there are a lot of elements in the tree that may not initially adapt well to the consumer base and the geography of the land. In the U.S., we tend to like apples that are about 3 inches in diameter with a high flavor profile.”

Every tree is the product of a selected root stock, Ralph notes, which can then be improved through grafting to make it a more successful product in the marketplace. “It took some time to find the right mix. Essentially 5 years ago everything came together and allowed them to begin growing the apple toward commercial production,” he says.

For the first 4 years FirstFruits saw smaller volumes of the Opal apple but as it entered the 2013 and 2014 seasons, the company decided they were in a place to roll out the variety in significant volumes.

The Opal apple maintains the characteristics of one of its parent varieties, the Golden Delicious, which does not brown as quickly as other apples. Scientists bred the apple by hand moving pollen to the female plant in order to produce something new… in this case, the Opal. 

Opal Apples

“The precise methods of cross-pollenating finally created the apple whose dominates are Topaz, a variety typically grown in Europe, and the golden delicious apple,” Keith tells me.  “The apple has a very delicate and unique flavor, that we have heard rivals the Honeycrisp. It also travels well, which was a key attribute when we were evaluating the Opal.”

Broetje and FirstFruits own the exclusive Northern American rights to grow pack and sell Opal apples. The orchards are found along the Snake River in the eastern corner of Washington State.

FirstFruits Marketing

Opal Apples

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