How The Taste Of Tomatoes Went Bad

A coworker of mine recently posted this article from NPR on his Facebook.The overall decline of taste and quality in the tomatoes found at most grocery stores has not gone unnoticed. My family no longer purchases regular tomatoes. Instead we get Kumato or Heirloom. This article is incredibly fascinating divulging into how a gene mutation have changed the taste of the mass market tomatoes.

The Salt

How The Taste of Tomatoes Went Bad (And Kept on Going)

By Dan Charles

Notice how some of these tomatoes have unripe-looking tops? Those "green shoulders" are actually the keys to flavor.

Notice how some of these tomatoes have unripe-looking tops? Those “green shoulders” are actually the keys to flavor.

The tomato is the vegetable (or fruit, if you must) that we love to hate. We know how good it can be and how bad it usually is. And everybody just wants to know: How did it get that way?

Today, scientists revealed a small but intriguing chapter in that story: a genetic mutation that seemed like a real improvement in the tomato’s quality, but which actually undermined its taste.

Before we get to the mutation, though, let’s start with the old tomatoes — the varieties that people grew a century or more ago.

Thanks to enthusiastic seed savers and heirloom tomato enthusiasts, you can still find many of them. Eric Rice, owner of Country Pleasures Farm near Middletown, Md., first encountered heirloom tomatoes when he was a graduate student in North Carolina.

“I decided I really liked them,” he says. He liked the vivid taste and the unusual colors, from orange to purple. These tomatoes also have great names: Cherokee Purple, Dr. Wyche’s, Mortgage Lifter.

Rice now grows these tomatoes to sell at a farmers market in Washington, D.C. But he admits that all that tomato personality can make heirlooms harder to grow and sell. “Heirloom tomatoes don’t ship very well because they’re softer. And frankly, they’re all different shapes and sizes.” This makes them more difficult to pack.

There’s something else you’ll notice as these tomatoes start to get ripe — something central to this story. The part of the tomato near the stem — what’s called the shoulder of the fruit — stays green longer.

“I think it is an issue for the consumer,” says Rice, “because people do buy with their eyes. And green shoulders also mean it’s not entirely ripe or not as soft and tasty there.”

Those green shoulders turn out to be more significant than you might think. In this week’s issue of the journal Science, scientists report that when they disappeared from modern tomatoes, some of the tomato’s taste went with them.

Here’s how. Sometime before 1930, somewhere in America, a tomato grower noticed a plant that was producing distinctive fruit. These fruit turned red from stem to tip in a uniform way. They didn’t have any of those bothersome green shoulders.

It was a new mutation, and plant breeders saw it as the next big thing.

They called it the “uniform ripening” trait. In 1930, the agricultural experiment station in Fargo, N.D., released a new tomato variety containing this mutation. The variety was called All Red.

Ann Powell, a researcher at the University of California, Davis, says it spread through the entire tomato industry. “It’s a little hard to find a variety in modern production that doesn’t have it,” she says.

Powell is one of the scientists who now has discovered the genetic change responsible for “uniform ripening.”

She was studying some genetically engineered tomato plants for another reason when she noticed that one of the added genes resulted in green tomatoes that were really dark green. It struck her as odd. “The leaves were not dark green. It was only the fruit that were dark green,” she recalls.

Since this foreign gene had interesting effects on the ripening of fruit, Powell and her colleagues started looking for a similar gene that occurs naturally in tomatoes. They found it — and by coincidence, so did another research team on the other side of the country, at Cornell University.

The researchers discovered that this natural tomato gene, when it works properly, produces those green shoulders on tomatoes. The darker green color comes from the chlorophyll in plant structures called chloroplasts, which is what converts sunlight into sugars for the plant. In fact, those dark green shoulders were making those old tomatoes sweeter and creating more flavor.

The uniform-ripening mutation disabled this gene.

“We find out that, oh my goodness, this is one of the factors that led to the deterioration of flavor in the commercial tomato,” says Harry Klee, a professor of horticulture at the University of Florida.

Klee has been exploring the chemistry and genetics of tomato taste. He says tomato breeders made a lot of compromises like this over the years as they created tomato plants that produce more fruit and are also rugged enough to hold up under rough handling.

Now, Klee says, with some of this new science, we have a chance to undo some of those decisions. “What I tell people is, we can have 100 percent of the flavor [of heirloom varieties] with 80 percent of the agricultural performance of the modern varieties, with very little work.”

Breeders can start with some of the best heirlooms, then bring in some of the disease-resistance genes that modern varieties have. They should also be able to increase yields somewhat, he says.

But consumers may have to change their expectations, Klee says. “They’re going to have to go in and say, ‘That one’s got that little discoloration at the top; that means it must be good!”

And, the only way they’re likely to show up in your local grocery store is if consumers can recognize them and are willing to pay a bit more for them.

Still, for the best flavor, you might want to grow your own.

Colony Collapse Disorder in Bees Triggered Not Just by Pesticides, but also by GMO High-Fructose Corn Syrup

“HFCS is commonly fed to many commercial bees today, which is why more than 75 percent of the so-called “honey” sold on store shelves is nothing more than HFCS.”

Natural News | April 19, 2012

Studies linking neonicotinoid pesticides to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a condition in which entire bee colonies suddenly disappear or die, have been gaining national attention in recent months as they continue to flood scientific journals.

But one area that has been largely overlooked is the role high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) plays in killing off bees, as the vast majority of it comes from genetically-modified (GM), pesticide treated corn crops.

Chensheng Lu, Kenneth M. Warchol, and Richard A. Callahan from the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health examined the effects of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid pesticide, on bee colonies as part of a recent review. Part of this research involved using HFCS that had been derived from corn crops treated with imidacloprid, for which the pesticide ended up getting into the end product.

For their study, the team created four honey bee sites with five honey bee hives each, for a total of 20 hives, with each site containing four imidacloprid hives and a control hive. Among the 16 hives treated with imidacloprid, varying amounts of the pesticide were used in order to gain a proper assessment of how, and at what levels, it affects bees.

In the end, the team discovered that the vast majority — 94 percent — of hives treated with imidacloprid ended up dying off as a result of what appeared to be CCD, even when very minute levels of the pesticide were added. And a key culprit in this die-off was imidacloprid-tainted HFCS, which served as the delivery system for this toxic chemical.

“Data from this in situ study provide convincing evidence that exposure to sub-lethal levels of imidacloprid in HFCS causes honey bees to exhibit symptoms consistent to CCD 23 weeks post imidacloprid dosing,” wrote the authors. “15 or 16 imidacloprid-treated hives (94%) were dead across four apiaries 23 weeks post imidacloprid dosing.”

You can review the study for yourself at:
http://www.bouldercountybeekeepers.org

Most commercial honey comes from bees fed chemical-laden HFCS

HFCS is commonly fed to many commercial bees today, which is why more than 75 percent of the so-called “honey” sold on store shelves is nothing more than HFCS (http://www.naturalnews.com/034102_honey_consumer_alert.html). And since the GM corn crops from which the vast majority of HFCS is derived have been treated with imidacloprid and other pesticides, it is hardly surprising that these chemicals end up in commercial bee feed.

France actually banned the use of imidacloprid on sunflowers and sweet corn back in 1999 and 2003, respectively, after more than one third of its bees died (http://www.guardian.co.uk). And yet the pesticide continues to be used in the U.S., despite the fact that it was never even lawfully approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

* * * * *

This article was written by Jonathan Benson, staff writer for Natural News.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.bouldercountybeekeepers.org

http://www.humanespot.org

Source:

http://www.naturalnews.com/035610_honey_bees_pesticides_corn_syrup.html 

This article was also posted by VeggieWitch and Activist Awake.