Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Lack of the Killer Tomatoes.

I was initially very happy when I saw this story in the New York Times.

The story talks about how plant geneticists cracked the code on why red tomatoes seemed more bland.  It was fascinating as well as exciting, because they now knew what gene was turned off because of the red ripening mutation... which means they could simply turn on the flavor producing gene, in theory.

What really bummed me out about this article was the following sentences; 'But were the genetically engineered tomatoes more flavorful? Because Department of Agriculture regulations forbid the consumption of experimental produce, no one tasted them.'

I'm all for regulation of food and ag, as I've posted about before, but at a certain point, we have to shed this pre-millennial thinking that scientists are reckless and don't know what they are doing.  At this point, I think plant geneticists and bio-engineers have the ability to make a strong hypothesis about potential gene outcomes, such that they may take a bite out of a fucking tomato.

This thinking leads into the next self defeating paragraph in the article; 'And, Dr. Giovannoni says, do not look for those genetically engineered tomatoes at the grocery store. Producers would not dare to make such a tomato for fear that consumers would reject it.'

So what, don't even bother?  Why would the public reject it?  I think the doctor is referring to the anti-science activists that have romanticized any kind of old-timey ag of yore where poor, perpetually underfed subsistence level farmers broke their ass to make a crop that we would return to the grocery store for quality reasons.

Why not educate throughout the process?  Why not put up the varying steps on YouTube with annotations on why each step is done and have links to accompanying notes for background reading?  We need much more educational outreach, because clearly the activists... the 'Anti's' are growing their numbers every day with a steady stream of misinformation.  Shying away from progress in this world for fear that we may be misunderstood is a cop-out.

Imagine if that story ended with them taking a bite out of that tomato and noting that it tasted much better...  Would it mean we would see them in the store next year without any safety validation?  No, but it would take a step towards dulling some of the anti-scientific, conspiratorial rhetoric out there.

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