July 20, 2021

"The purple tomato is the first she designed to have more anthocyanin, a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compound."

"'All higher plants have a mechanism for making anthocyanins,' Martin explained when we met. 'A tomato plant makes them as well, in the leaves. We just put in a switch that turns on anthocyanin production in the fruit.' Martin noted that while there are other tomato varieties that look purple, they have anthocyanins only in the skin, so the health benefits are slight. 'People say, Oh, there are purple tomatoes already,' Martin said. 'But they don’t have these kind of levels.' The difference is significant. When cancer-prone mice were given Martin’s purple tomatoes as part of their diet, they lived 30 percent longer than mice fed the same quantity of ordinary tomatoes; they were also less susceptible to inflammatory bowel disease. After the publication of Martin’s first paper showing the anticancer benefit of her tomatoes, in the academic journal Nature Biotechnology in 2008, newspapers and television stations began calling.... She considered making the tomato available in stores or offering it online as a juice. But because the plant contained a pair of genes from a snapdragon — that’s what spurs the tomatoes to produce more anthocyanin — it would be classified as a genetically modified organism: a G.M.O."

From "Learning to Love G.M.O.s/Overblown fears have turned the public against genetically modified food. But the potential benefits have never been greater" by Jennifer Kahn (NYT).


Ann Althouse said...

Temujin writes:

"First of all, I'm a huge tomato eater and have been bemoaning the fact that most of the toms you get in any of the national chains are tasteless, unripened or falsely induced to ripeness, and are probably not as nutritional as they used to be. One has to shop from a farmer's market to get anything remotely close to a tasty tomato- what used to be readily accessible just a few years ago.

"That said, people don't seem to mind the fact that we modify foods all the time to make them taste good. Moreover, foods are manipulated to not only taste good, but to have an addictive quality to them, so you want to keep eating more than you need to, or go back and buy multiple bags of the stuff. We modify everything that makes our Western world overweight. It may not be *genetically* modified, but you can bet your ass it's been modified- and not in a good way for you.

"So why would people be so adamantly against foods that have been modified in a good way, using the knowledge we have today, to produce versions of foods that are healthier, more able to be grown in different environments, more resistant to pests or the environment, while packing a huge array of nutrients not found in those bags of crap you load into your grocery cart?

"It's as if we would rather pay for our demise than our health. I know...just shut up and pass the chips."

Ann Althouse said...

Wilbur writes:

"I'm no scientist, but I asked someone who was railing against GMOs, if every living thing on earth is in fact a GMO.

"GMO is a matter of terms. Genetic modification occurs naturally in nature. It's called genetic mutation. Darwin, Mendel, et seq."

Ann Althouse said...

Robert writes:

"Being well on my way to grouchy old man status, LOTS of things irritate me. But few irritate me more than GMO-phobia. I grit my teeth when I see "non-GMO" virtue-signaling on food packages. Grrrr!

"GMO's are a huge, positive good for mankind, with higher food production, reduced need for insecticides, supplemental vitamins built into the food, etc. Lots of positives, and nothing but hippy-dippy reasons to avoid them. Anti-GMO and pro-organic folks unnecessarily burden the food-production process with their quasi-religion, and there is simply no robust science to support their preferences. Inefficient farms which take up more land than necessary to produce X amount of food, THAT is an environmental problem. Thank your friendly scientific farmer who is feeding the world."

Ann Althouse said...

Tina writes:

"Back in the 30’s, getting Florida and California produce to cities up north in the winter was a big scaling problem. Picking unripe tomatoes and gassing them at least provided ways to get some fresh vegetables to northern city dwellers. Then Paul Dickman, of the Ruskin Tomato Company (ironically named after perhaps the least practical human to ever walk the earth, or rather the once-socialist colony named after him) invented cellophane coverings for lettuce and other vegetables, and we could suddenly get salad ingredients from Tampa to NYC in the winter without them melting in the unheated train cars. This was exciting stuff, reported on newsreels in movie theaters. Agricultural archives are like adventure movies. He flew cauliflower and gladiolas (for wealthy people and funerals) from Cockroach Bay to points north, and his inimitable sister Pauline rode out a hurricane in a field in her Cadillac after getting stuck trying to rescue the crops by shutting off the irrigation wells to minimize storm surge. We are such lucky wimps these days.

"Imagine when a cauliflower in winter was a luxury. Their nephew told me stories about his own father coming into the foyer so thickly covered with mosquitoes that he had a stick for scraping them off his arms before he came in the house. Yellow fever was dreaded. So were years when only persimmons produced well. Then it was persimmons three times a day.

"These people still have secret stockpiles of DDT. And much of the land once used for tomatoes is now surrounded by high fences and barbed wire and security lights because they’ve gotten a contract to grow marijuana. Time marches on. I guess.

"There’s always an up side and a down side. The book about the Dust Bowl, The Worst Hard Time, is great history about an event so shattering we have basically blocked it out of collective memory, but we survived it. If scientists can enhance black and purple tomatoes to make them even more anti-inflammatory and less prone to wilt, I’m all in. It’s all I grow. My body has always told me I needed them. Now, besides their being the best food on earth, I know why. What’s happening with the New York Times suddenly talking sense? Has there been a coup?"

Ann Althouse said...

Bart Hall writes:

"As a farmer and agronomist who's actually done some plant breeding, I have a different perspective than most.The underlying context, however, is quite simple -- the MARKET has been rather good at weeding out GMOs providing little benefit to either farmers or consumers. New Leaf potato and Flavr Savr tomato come immediately to mind.

"I never used them [breeding things like barley and oats] but some techniques considered "conventional" are far worse than GMOs. The goal, contrary to GMOs, is to completely scramble DNA and hope you get something good. One method bombards the genes with radiation from Cobalt 60. Another uses a terribly toxic chemical called colchicene for the same purpose. It's like using a hand-grenade to organize your office.

"By comparison, consider those wonderfully-sweet pineapples available for a couple of decades. GMO. They doubled up the sugar gene. Sometimes they extract troublesome genes, as the Chileans have done to develop a wheat incapable of producing gluten. It is now being worked on and tested here in the States after Europe rejected it because it's a GMO. There is also work underway on a banana which will produce a spectrum of oral vaccines -- no need to refrigerate, which is a big challenge in much of the world -- and last I heard, they're working on a way to make the skin blue for ease of identification.

"Mindless opposition to GMOs is quite scandalous, and causes genuine harm, as with Vitamin-A rich Golden Rice. In consequence, there are some 50 million people needlessly blind (or even dead) because "activists" have kept it off the market for a generation.

"Sometimes the positive consequences are quite real. Back in 2011-'12, here in Kansas and surrounding states we had temperatures and drought just as bad as anything in the 1930s, but we did NOT have another Dust Bowl because GMO soybeans can be seeded closely and weeds controlled with herbicide. Now commonly rotated with corn, those beans, which were hardly grown in the 1930s ... those beans saved our butts.

"GMO-opponents' ignorance would be funny, were it not so dangerous. Quite commonly they refuse to eat soy products like tofu "because of GMOs", yet the soybeans used for such products are a completely different form of soybean for which there *are* no GMOs. But the same people, many or even most of them vegetarians, consume plant-based "meats" which commonly contain "texturized vegetable protein", which DOES come from the GMO beans.

"Logic has never been a strong suit for activists, most particularly when science is involved."