April 25, 2011

Who spliced their genes in my tomatoes?

Who spliced their genes in my tomatoes?

With spring planting around the corner, I have been compiling my seed and seedling list. I am increasing the pepper plants in my garden; planting Bulgarian carrot chillies, jalapeños, habaneras, Jimmy Nardello and pablano peppers. I may try to grow burdock root as the new entrant to this years plantings, along with over a dozen herbs and four varieties of basil.

Sungold tomatoes – highly recommended
I also combed through a few seed catalogs and browsed local plant sale lists to broaden my tomato selection.  Last year my star tomato performer in my garden was the Sungold tomato.  The Sungold has a short gestation period (57 days) and it is the sweetest of cherry tomatoes, ripening to a golden orange. This year I will plant my Sungold seedlings further from my front door, as the ripening tomato was often picked by friends and their kids – leaving me with a smaller bounty. Barring the occasional picking by my friends four year old daughter, the Sungold tomato plant yields close to 1,000 tomatoes (from a single plant) and on most days I could harvest a dozen to mix with dinner salads and the summer classic insalata caprese.

Gene engineering  in your tomato salad and the first aisle of the supermarket
Given my fortune last year with the Sungold heirloom, I thought I would look for a new variety to add to my garden. I tried Kumato’s at a local restaurant and then magically found them at Whole Foods, but not Vitamin Cottage (whose produce aisle only contains organic fruits and vegetables). They were not available from my local organic grower, who features over forty true heirloom varieties, so we exchanged a few emails regarding the Kumato.

It turns out the Kumato is not really a tomato- well nothing like an heirloom variety.  The Kumato is actually patented technology that only some farmers can license and grow. What did he say? Kumoto tomatoes are not an heirloom variety tomato, they are a genetically engineered variation. The patent to the tomato is owned by Swiss biotechnology company Syngenta AG. The tomatoes are engineered for their beautiful color, sugar/fructose content and long shelf life.

In lieu of stricter food labeling laws you may find more hazards in the first aisle of the supermarket
Until researching Syngenta’s tomato engineering, I never thought of tomatoes as a storage crop, requiring longer shelf life.  I thought tomatoes were meant to be picked from the vine by four year old daughters and promptly consumed or sliced for a salad.

I encourage you to read more about Switzerland’s Monsanto, Syngenta AG, and their gene manipulation process to support the Kumato tomato we serve at local restaurants and are found in our supermarkets.

Better yet I will see you Saturday at the Farmers Market for tomatoes that were harvested on Friday by our local growers. Our local farmers nurture their soil and are environmental stewards for our land.  Our local farmers do not take out patents on tomatoes, they feed our community and their families.

From Pangea Organics: Hey GMO’s stop trying to get into my plants
Further reading: Jeffrey Smith, Seeds of Deception
Who put a trademark on my tomato?

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