Genetically Modified Tomatoes

Are genetically modified (GM) foods bad for you? This is a controversial topic and at this time I am not going to talk about that question entirely. Nor am I here right now to discuss the ethics of manipulating genes. However, recently there was a study that pointed out that there were no large unintended genetic consequences in the GM tomato’s which were designed to resist ripening.

When the scientists compared the biochemicals of the GM tomato and a wide assortment other non-GM tomatoes, including modern and heirloom varieties, they found no significant differences overall. Thus, although the GM tomato was distinct from its parent, its metabolic profile still fell within the “normal” range of biochemical diversity exhibited by the larger group of varieties. However, the biochemicals related to fruit ripening did show a significant difference — no surprise because that was the intent of the genetic modification (1).

All in all, it seems that the scientists were able to edit the genome as they intended with no other large unintended genetic changes, which is good. But I do have two questions. First do these “extended ripening genes” have any adverse human consequences? Second, for this tomato it sounds like these ripening genes still fall within the normal tomato range of genes. But what is this “normal” range and what measurement did they use?

(1) Crop Science Society of America. “New approach to detecting changes in GM foods.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140403131942.htm>.

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