Friday, March 17, 2006


Myth: The reason the tomatoes on my salad are so pale and tasteless is that they are mass-produced or genetically engineered.

Many consumers have a negative attitude about Genetically Modified (GM) foods because they think that their perceived bad experiences with them in the past only confirm the bad press that they may have heard.

One example includes GM tomatoes. When tomatoes ripen certain enzymes begin to degrade the fruit’s cell wall (because breakdown of the fruit is necessary for seed dispersal). While this makes ripe tomatoes tender and juicy, it also makes them very susceptible to damage and disease.

There are many ways that producers try to avoid this. With organic produce you can harvest early. Buyers can then ripen them in the window seal. Conventional producers harvest early and then treat their produce with the ripening hormone ethylene. Genetically modified varieties have altered enzyme systems that allow early harvest and delayed ripening.

In every case, the end product is typically a chewy, pale, tasteless tomato. There is no way to distinguish a GM tomato from any other based on taste or appearance. Nor is there any difference in safety or nutritional quality. In fact, GM tomatoes can be produced with fewer herbicides and pesticides than conventional tomatoes ( see also 'Green Profits' and 'Is Organic Better?' ) making them much safer.

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