If you had a choice between two tomatoes, a red one and a green one, which one would you choose? I’m guessing you would say the red one. Most people would which is why tomatoes have been genetically engineered to be as bright red as we can possibly make them, because that is what we want. Well a recent study has shown that that same gene mutation that has been deliberately bred into tomatoes by plant breeders to make them a beautiful bright red is actually messing up the gene that makes tomatoes tasty. Hence the redder the tomato chances are the more tasteless it is.
This isn’t really a surprise to most of us (which is why organic is so popular). I remember doing a course at Berkeley a while back and one of the participants, a woman from India, had picked up a banana at breakfast and only had time to eat half of it. She left the other half on her desk in her room and was expecting to have to throw it out when she got back because by then it would have turned black and mushy. She said she got back and it was still perfect, firm and white. It turned into an experiment. We would go into her room every morning to see the state of the banana. For 4 days it stayed firm and white. At the end of the week she threw it into the garden. She said not only did it scare her that this banana never went bad but it also didn’t taste like anything at all. But it looked perfect.
There are lots of foods that have been genetically engineered and usually (from what I can tell) to make them look better. But what good is it that a fruit or vegetable looks good? Food isn’t just meant to be looked at, it is meant to be eaten so wouldn’t it make sense, if we were to genetically engineer anything, to make it taste even better (if that is even possible)? As a society we often have this obsession with the way things look, which is very superficial, rather than the quality that lies beneath the surface. It fascinates me that we have been able to turn something that was perfect in terms of taste, shape and smell like a tomato into something that looks like one, but actually isn’t. If only we put all that energy into things that really mattered and left the things that are already perfect alone.
Besides, you would think that people would be more likely to have healthy diets if fruits and veggies actually tasted good rather than just looking good!