With summer around the corner there is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. From apples, oranges and strawberries to cucumbers, carrots, and tomatoes, an incredible range of fruits and veggies can be grown in the continental United States. Always looking to improve crop yields and provide a product capable of selling to farmers, large companies have been working on modifying plants in such a way as to become more resilient, tasty, and better producers of what we eat.
Enter the world of biotechnology, food, and genetically engineered plants. Far from science fiction, our fruits and veggies have been experimented on for the past few decades as scientists and researchers at the companies attempt to create better crops. At the center of the debate are tomatoes.
Tomatoes grow incredibly well in the United States. From local gardens to large-scale production, tomatoes make their way into every part of our diet. Those produced for sale in grocery stores may one day become genetically modified. Lets take a moment to look at the biotechnology of tomatoes and review the pros and cons associated with their use. In addition, we will spend a quick moment figuring out exactly what they mean by biotechnology of tomatoes.
The Pros of Biotechnology of Tomatoes
Including biotechnology into tomatoes provide a range of potential benefits for farmers and consumers alike. From being more nutritious to costing less and standing up to nature better, genetically engineered tomatoes provide a range of exciting possibilities.
1. Fewer Pesticides and Herbicides are Used In Growing
When using biotechnology in tomatoes, the amount of pesticides and herbicides that are used can be reduced. This means that the tomatoes you buy in the store will have far less toxic material that needs to be washed off, making them a healthier option. In addition, with built in pest and herbicide control, the tomatoes will cost less money because less sprays are required to keep the tomatoes safe. This means that the farmer saves more money and generates a greater profit as a result.
2. Less Money Spent Producing And Purchasing
The savings do not just stop with the farmer. As more and more tomatoes can be produced at once, the overall price of tomatoes for the consumer will drop as well. Farmers will be able to dedicate less of their land to farming and more of their land to growing other things as well. Rotating crops will be easier, and shoppers will save every step of the way.
3. Less Tilling Required
Tilling is often seen as one of the ways that the soil loses some of its nutrients. The soil is normally tilled because of weeds that would otherwise grow and choke the tomato plants. By reducing the need to till because the tomato plants are hardier, there will be a better overall quality of soil in which to grow plants.
4. More Nutritious Tomatoes
As suggested earlier, genetically modifying tomatoes means that there is a chance they can be made more nutritious. Imagine if most of your vitamins and minerals came from a single source. It would be far easier to eat healthy and require far less attention to dietary requirements. With the biotechnology of tomatoes comes the potential for the tomato to play this role as a true ‘super food.’
The Cons of Biotechnology of Tomatoes
Those against the biotechnology of tomatoes speak to fears that may result from wide-scale implementation and growth of these plants. From doubts regarding the environmental benefits to the side effects caused my modifying tomato plants, many people see the future of tomatoes not as a miracle but as a serious worry.
1. Environmental Benefits of Less Tilling Questioned
It is assumed that with less pesticides and herbicides making their way into the soil, that biotechnology of tomatoes will result in better soil quality. In addition, it is believed that there will be benefits from not tilling as much as necessary with these new and improved tomatoes. From what data has been gathered however, both of these assertions are currently being tested and may not actually be true. Further testing will be required before a definitive understanding can be reached.
2. Unsure Exactly What We Are Consuming
What are in these genetically modified tomatoes? Is it truly healthy? Every time we make a change to a plant, there can be unforeseen consequences that do not play out until people have been eating them for a while. The risk of this may be small. At the same time, there is still enough of a risk for people to swear off of the biotechnology of tomatoes even before they become a thing.
3. Plants Now Produce Their Own Insecticide That We Eat
The benefit of the biotechnology of tomatoes is that they produce their own toxins capable of fighting off pests. As a result, fewer pesticides have to be sprayed on the fruit. The challenge to this however is that genetically modified tomatoes have replaced one kind of pesticide with another. Now the plant is the one killing off its competitors and people will still have to go out of their way to ensure that the tomatoes they buy are well cleaned.
4. Weeds Are Adapting And Becoming Harder To Remove
As we play with the biotechnology of tomatoes, we inadvertently give many of the tomatoes’ competitors a leg up. It is not impossible for weeds to adapt to these new defenses and work around them, creating a weed that cannot be killed with pesticides. Having already been seen occurring, a modified tomato may only provide a temporary boost in production before weeds and insects adapt.
What Exactly Do We Mean By Biotechnology of Tomatoes?
The biotechnology of tomatoes refers to genetically modifying the tomato with an intended virus. Genetic modification is done by inserting genes from either a virus or a bacteria into a tomato plant to give the tomato plant a beneficial characteristic it previously didn’t have. For example a resistance to toxic pesticides can allow the plant to thrive while all of the little bugs on it would die.
Also known as a transgenic tomato or genetically modified tomato, biotechnology of tomatoes have their genes changed through genetic engineering. The first use of the technology was to increase the shelf life of tomatoes. While no genetically engineered tomatoes are available directly to the public, many kinds are in production including those that can better stand up to environmental stresses. It is hoping that tomatoes will eventually be able to be enriched with substances that provide nutritional benefits, making the standard tomato that much more versatile.
Where Does That Leave Us?
The biotechnology of tomatoes offers incredible potential. The idea of tomatoes become a super food responsible for the majority of our nutritional and vitamin needs is incredible. In addition, being able to make tomato plants produce more can help to reduce the costs of tomatoes across the United States while allowing farmers to still profit from their hauls. However, because so much of the biotechnology of tomatoes is untested and still theoretical, many people worry that these modified tomatoes will not be a solution but rather an additional problem.