Food waste statistics in America can be depressing.
Some folks are trying to pass laws that help inform Americans about what expiry dates actually indicate, in the hopes that we’ll all stop tossing out healthy food just because of its label. Additionally, farmers have reported that massive amounts of perfectly serviceable food never even makes it to our grocery stores -- never mind our plates -- simply because it doesn’t look pretty enough for our unreasonable standards.
Perhaps in an attempt to help ameliorate our waste output, a new paper published this week in the journal Nature Biotechnology reports that scientists have created an indestructible (well… sort of) version of a tomato that apparently takes a much longer time to wither or show signs of discoloration.
“Controlling the rate of softening to extend shelf life was a key target for researchers engineering genetically modified (GM) tomatoes in the 1990s, but only modest improvements were achieved,” reads the paper. “Hybrids grown nowadays contain 'non-ripening mutations' that slow ripening and improve shelf life, but adversely affect flavor and color. We report substantial, targeted control of tomato softening, without affecting other aspects of ripening, by silencing a gene encoding a pectate lyase.”
Essentially, the team of scientists managed to neutralize a kind of enzyme that destroys the walls of cells, thus enabling them to engineer this new, mighty tomato. Even though the tomato remains unnaturally firm for longer, it still allegedly contains equivalent amounts of molecules tied to color, smell and taste.
Remember, folks: There are currently no studies that connect GMOs to any true health risks; in fact, 16 major international science organizations (and that includes the American Medical Association and the National Academy of Sciences) have reported that we need not avoid consuming current GMOs.
Despite all that, these particular tomatoes are still unlikely ever to make it to grocery stores, according to what a USDA molecular biologist told the journal (per Grub Street). While the shelf life was extended, it would simply cost too much to clear all of the regulatory hurdles to currently justify selling the tomatoes. The molecular biologist hopes that scientists will use this research as a sort of guide for how to optimize texture when cross-breeding varieties in the future.