Many of us invested in the success of sustainable agriculture have a knee-jerk response against genetically-modified foods, and for good reason — they often come with patent protection, pesticides, and other undesirable features. But a new development from the National Institute of Plant Genome Research in New Delhi suggests that GMO crops could have at least one positive use: dramatically increasing the shelf life of fruits and vegetables.
Researchers discovered that by suppressing two enzymes (A-Man, B-Hex) that accumulate during ripening, the shelf life of tomatoes could retain ripeness and a firm texture for over a month. That’s significantly longer than the standard shelf life of 15 days. The same technique could potentially be used in bananas, papayas, mangoes, and other fruit.
If used commercially, the technique could dramatically cut down on the number of fruits and vegetables thrown out in supermarkets — and homes — because of rottenness. It could also increase the efficiency of farms, which currently lose almost half of their tomato harvest each year due to excessive softening before it goes to market. What do you think — would you eat these GMO foods?
+ National Institute of Plant Genome Research
Via UK Daily Mail
Enzyme that breaks down the cell walls of the tomatoes helps with digestion in our bodies. So puts less strain on the pancreas in turn helps prevent cancer of the pancreas. Things are the way they are for reason we sometimes do not understand. The butterfly effect comes to mind then we start to tinker with things we do not understand. Science is about patents which returns money for the research. Do not think corporations are doing this for humans it is for the patent and for the money. Than who is testing the safety of the products? Not the fda or any other government agency.
Tomatoes and other fruits that take longer to rot definitely have potential to help with long distance shipping. But they also have potential to help prevent food waste and to extend the season of fresh local produce for northern regions. The Indian researchers turned off one gene that produces an enzyme that breaks down the cell walls of the tomatoes. In tomatoes that have the gene turned on, the enzyme breaks down components of the cell wall and the products of that breakdown start a whole process that causes the tomato to soften and eventually rot. This change has nothing to do with how animal (human) digestion enzymes will treat the tomato. As for how long the vitamins will last - more testing needs to be done. Although, if biotech fruits like these are able to reduce the amount of rotten wasted food by 30-40% in developing countries, I wonder if any potential reduced vitamins per individual fruit would be made up by quantity. There's a lot of hungry people out there. I don't know about you, but I think the tomatoes would be useful in developed countries too - sometimes I'm not able to use up all the tomatoes from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) before they rot. Assuming that they pass the necessary safety testing, I'd eat them. For more science-based thoughts on these tomatoes, and other genetically engineered crops, I hope you'll check out the group blog Biofortified.org. My post "I say tomato" has some more information about exactly how these tomatoes were developed.
@Revoluter - Ok, I hadn't even thought of that. If this type of modification would really affect digestion in that way, that is horrifying...
Even beyond the poor nutrients it might have, as suggested by Elizabeth. As far as it goes inside the body, the faster the food rots the better it is for your health, because the body can then digest it quickly. Just imagine buying this tomato on the first day, and it will last 30 days inside of you. That's the main reason why food with too many chemicals are bad for your health. If the body can't get rid of it quickly, it's toxic. It's as simple as that.
Ugh. How much farther away from food being food are we going to get? As the first commenter said, wasting food has nothing to do with tomato shelf life. Solving hunger issues has nothing to do with tomato shelf life. Why would anyone want to eat a fruit that has had its ripening enzymes suppressed? If there are efficiency issues with the supply chain and supermarket stocking system, they should be addressed within those systems, not by bioengineering the product.
No I would not eat GMO tomatoes, nor do I think it is in any person's interest to do so. The older the produce is the more nutrients it loses. So, 30 day old tomatoes -- and potentially bananas, papayas, mangoes, and other fruit -- would mean 30 days more of oxidation and nutrient loss... thus resulting in nutritionally deficient fruits being served to the public in likely great quantities. Remember too, that the softening of fruits serve as visible signs of rotting and bacterial growth. In eating 30-day old (or older) GM tomatoes that have their ripening enzymes suppressed, you could be eating food laden with invisible, harmful bacteria. Then, what of the manipulated DNA and the new organisms created from this process? Would these GMOs cross to other species as others have? Would we see fruits and vegetables across the board unable to ripen? How would the soil balance be affected? Wouldn't a local model of produce distribution ensure fresher produce and reduce waste? And optimize nutritional benefits and taste? And reduce transportation costs? We certainly may be barking up the wrong tree in seeking food solutions via genetic modification. Bio-engineering for freshness to ultimately serve old --and possibly invisibly rotted -- produce seems to have the opposite result of freshness. This "solution" may actually cause much greater problems than having to eat tomatoes within a couple weeks of harvest.
Increased shelf-life only has advantages for long term transportation, which is questionable since there's an effort to eat organic and local. Tomatoes are easily kept/conserved, productive and grow almost anywhere with season extension, so... The problem of wasting food has nothing to do with tomato shelf-life. While having better alternatives to them I don't think current GMO products present any solid advantages.