Service of Tweaks in Tomato Land: Is What’s Good for Shipping & Shelf Life Good for Me?

August 11th, 2016

Categories: DNA, Food, Food Safety, Genetically Modified Organism, Technology

tomato 1

The words “safe” or “healthy” appeared nowhere in Daniela Hernandez’s Wall Street Journal article, “GMO Tomatoes May Stay Firm Longer–The genetic tweaks don’t significantly affect color and may preserve flavor, according to a new study.” She covered highlights from a paper published in Nature Biotechnology that showed that the modified tomatoes stayed firm for 14 days after they were picked, significant for shipping and shelf life.

When tomatoes are old they wrinkle

When tomatoes are old they wrinkle

And there was something else. The study, partially funded by Syngenta [seeds and pesticide], was performed at the University of Nottingham in the UK, a country that forbids people from eating genetically modified foods, so that nobody knows how these two-week-still-hard tomatoes taste!

Growing up in NYC before the advent of farmers’ markets, I disliked supermarket tomatoes that tasted at best like mushy apples. I realized how delicious the fruit can be when I lived in a foreign country where farmers waited until the fruit was a deep red before picking and selling.

“It’s unlikely the same DNA-wrangling technologies will be used for tomatoes grown commercially,” wrote Hernandez. “The tomato market isn’t big enough to ‘justify the cost of going through the regulatory hoops’ necessary to sell genetically modified tomatoes, said USDA plant molecular biologist James Giovannoni. ‘That is why the GMOs [genetically modified organisms] currently in the market are major crops, like maize or soy.’”

Tomato 3 commercialHernandez continued: “The research’s benefit is providing a road map to genes breeders could target. It’s more likely they would cross tomatoes with less pectate-lyase activity to commercial varieties and select those that are firm and tasty, he added.” [Not quite sure what that means.] “That will require growers to figure out what conditions give them optimal flavor and texture, at the right harvest time.”

So should I worry about the definition of “commercial growers?” Obviously they sell to behemoths like Del Monte and Heinz but what about the farmers who sell to small grocery stores, restaurants and at farmers’ markets—will their tomatoes eventually be tweaked to support more favorable shipping and storage or are they subject to the same complicated regulations as commercial growers? Do you believe that a genetically fiddled tomato will be safe and healthy to eat?

tomato 2

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7 Responses to “Service of Tweaks in Tomato Land: Is What’s Good for Shipping & Shelf Life Good for Me?”

  1. ASK Said:

    Anyone who has grown their own tomatoes knows “commercial” tomatoes, GMO or not, will not equal fresh from the garden. What bothers me is that the premium price I have paid for farmers’ market tomatoes has not nessarily meant better taste. So I continue to sniff and hope for the best. But I am scratching my head about this discussion: why are growers spending all this time over “improved” tomatoes if the market isn’t big enough to warrant their concerns. The big question is not firmness or gene modification…it’s a question of TASTE.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    And TASTE is the one aspect that is not known about this tested variety. Big sigh.

  3. hb Said:

    When I think of all the great dishes I used to eat that, as a practical matter, are no longer available, from Spanish baby eels to fresh white Italian truffles, to birds’ nest soup and abalone, to non-farm mercury free fresh fish, let us be thankful for what we can still eat some farmers’ market produce.

    What with population growth, control concentration in food production and distribution channels into fewer and fewer hands, the genetically altered tomato is inevitable. Fortunately, we will think that it tastes good, because slick marketing will persuade us that it does.

    If you don’t believe me, look at the millions of voting Americans who have been persuaded by sly marketing to believe Donald Trump is capable of running our country.

  4. Lucrezia Said:

    I know nothing about tomatoes, tweaked or otherwise. The best policy would be to label all tampered with products as such, and let the consumer decide.

  5. David Reich Said:

    I agree with Lucrezia.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Good solution, though I wonder if products with GMO maize and soy are so marked.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:

    hb,

    In addition to one of the worst marketing scams I’ve witnessed that you identified–the Trump candidacy– [if you don’t count Bernie Madoff’s crookedness in this category or all the corporate big wigs who were too big to fail and to this day are unscathed while others flounder financially]–we can all point to countless examples of the public being duped by smart marketing while put in danger. Take cigarettes that the manufacturers knew were dangerous and yet they swore were safe. The same with some drugs where negative study results were buried and diet medications that killed people and…..The poor tomato doesn’t have a chance.

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