Genetic breakthrough could let fruit last a month longer. Safe? Bah. Who cares?

By | February 5, 2010

The curse of the soggy tomato could soon be a thing of the past … or so scientists say.

They have created a fruit which is said to stay fresh for 45 days – three times longer than the conventional version.

But the drawbacks are that it is the result of genetic engineering, and no one is saying what it actually tastes like.

The researchers believe the same process could be applied to other fruits, including bananas and mangoes.

However, the need for extensive safety testing means it will be years before the GM fruits could go on sale in British supermarkets, if ever.

Researchers in India lengthened the life of tomatoes by ‘turning off’ genes linked to the production of ripening enzymes.

This increased firmness and stopped the tomatoes going soft for up to 45 days, according to a report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers, from the National Institute of Plant Genomic Research in New Delhi, said the breakthrough could prove a boon for farmers who lose up to 40 per cent of their fruit to over-ripening.

Dr Asis Datta said: ‘Overall, the results demonstrate a substantial improvement in shelf life.

‘The engineering of plants provides a strategy for crop improvement that can be extended to other important fruit crops.’ The banana, mango and papaya all have a genetic make-up which could be manipulated in this way, Dr Datta added.

via The end of the squashy tomato? Genetic breakthrough could let fruit last a month longer | Mail Online.

Another case of money winning over health. In Europe, labels are required to show what foods have been genetically modified. Here in the US, companies have so much lobbying power over the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that we Americans don’t even get to know which foods are GM. Out of sight, out of mind.

On Monday, October 2, 2000, a federal court held that the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) current, 1992 policy on genetically engineered foods “does not have a binding effect” on GE food producers. In dismissing a May 1998 lawsuit on the FDA’s 1992 policy, the court equated the current policy to agency “inaction” and therefore found it immune from challenge under a number of statutes. FDA has announced that it will publish new rules on the testing and labeling of GE foods this fall.

The Court also refused to judge the current controversy over the safety and labeling of GE foods declaring that the agency’s 1992 policy can only be assessed with the information that was available at that time. While acknowledging plaintiffs have produced information “showing significant disagreement among scientific experts” concerning the safety of such food, the court stated it could not consider such information because it has been presented after 1992. The ruling leaves questions regarding the creation of actual regulations addressing the safety, environmental review and labeling of genetically foods unresolved.

Commenting on the decision, Center for Food Safety Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell stated, “This court decision means that for almost a decade these novel foods have gone virtually unregulated in the United States. American consumers have been used as unknowing guinea pigs for the safety of these foods.”

If you aren’t getting my point about lobbyists for big companies being bad for your health, try this:

Jan 15, 2010

FDA made a strange move earlier this week when it appointed former Monsanto lobbyist Michael Taylor to lead the agency’s fight against contaminated peanut butter and lethal lettuce. Taylor was named to the new post of deputy commissioner for food.

Taylor, who has circled three times between government and industry, isn’t the sort of person you’d expect to see issuing orders in the Obama FDA. The last time he was at the FDA, the agency created several policies on genetically modified foods that no one would ever call consumer-friendly. (Which is perhaps why the FDA staffer who wrote Taylor’s bio seems to have all-but-forgotten his decade-plus of Monsanto work.)

Is this time around going to be different? Real and substantial changes to food safety aren’t going to happen without ruffling a few feathers in the food industry. Is Taylor the guy to stand firm in the face of the inevitable lobbying assault? You hope so, but there isn’t much in his record to suggest it.

There’s little doubt that Taylor is an expert in both food safety and food regulation. Even his critics will grant that. He once ran the USDA’s food safety program and has spent years studying the issue. Taylor says he is ready to get tough on food safety and that 2010 will be a “groundbreaking year.”

But here’s where that claim runs up against the past. While Taylor was the FDA’s policy chief in the early 1990s, the agency approved genetically modified crops and bovine growth hormone for cows, new technologies that both benefited Monsanto enormously. And FDA rules stated that both GM foods and bovine growth hormone would not need labeling to let consumers know when it was appearing in their food.

But that’s not all. As a lobbyist, Taylor argued against the Delaney Clause, one of the foundations of food safety regulation that prohibits cancer-causing chemicals to be added to food. – link

Perhaps Taylor has our safety in mind more than profit. Hope so.

One thought on “Genetic breakthrough could let fruit last a month longer. Safe? Bah. Who cares?

  1. Sexist Stay-at-home Dad

    Interesting. But you seem to think that genetic engineering equals bad. I don’t undertand that. I’m trying to learn more about the subject, because I think there are pros and cons to genetically modified crops. We should proceed with caution, but at the same time we should not block what potentially can be a means of increasing food production. Penn & Teller, the libertarian pundits, offer some food (pardon the pun) for thought (Norman Borlaug is a Nobel Prize winning scientist):

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