Pi Attitude Zone: Flexibility

GM Purple Ketchup? Seriously?

As previous Pi posts have shown, a lot of people have problems with the concept of genetically modified food. 

So how are they going to feel about purple GM tomatoes?  We’ll soon know.  They are heading to selected shops round about now.  A firm in Ontario, Canada, has already been producing enough of these genetically engineered exotics to make several thousand liters of tomato juice, some destined for shipment to the UK.  And that’s just the beginning.  The new tomato juice products are on-track to be approved for sale in the USA.

Wait.  Why genetically modify the humble tomato in the first place?  Research scientists in the UK were looking for ways to give it a nutritional boost.  They wanted a tomato with the same potential health benefits as, say, blueberries or cranberries.  As a by-product, though, they produced something that is unmistakably purple in color, thanks to the transfer of a gene from, of all available donor species, the snapdragon flower.  The pigment comes from an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which studies suggest greatly enhances nutritional value, and might even help in the fight against cancer.  But it does make the tomatoes look more like non-elongated plums. 

Let’s be honest here. They look, well… weird.  And perhaps the weirdest thing is that these tomatoes were designed to “increase appeal to consumers”.  There is a serious doubt on whether they will, at least at the outset.  Environmental psychologists at the UK’s Cardiff University have conducted opinion polls, and say “People will still be concerned that this is a technology that potentially interferes with natural systems - they'll be concerned about big corporations having control”.  They are aware of an innate mistrust, especially in Europe, directed at genetically-modified... well, anything.

Think purple tomato ketchup, purple pizza toppings...  and that restorative Sunday Brunch cocktail, the Purple Mary (made, of course, from vodka and purple tomato juice).  The scientists are resigned to the idea that such innovations could take a decade or more to catch on.

Meanwhile, those pioneer consumers brave enough to ‘go purple’ should be awarded... the Purple Heart, naturally.

Zone: Flexibility Country: Europe Product – Consumer Products