Welcome Frankentomatoes to the class of perishable foods tweaked to become indestructible: un-bruisable potatoes, apples that can’t oxidize, and salmon that grow twice as fast on 75 percent as much food. According to a new paper published this week in a Nature journal, scientists have created a version of a tomato that stays firm for a very long time without any effect on its size or color. The genetically modified fruit did not “show telltale signs of softening, like pruned skin, 14 days after harvesting,” The Wall Street Journal says. The team neutralized pectate lyase, some sort of enzyme that destroys cell walls, which allowed them to engineer a tomato that’s unnaturally firm but still contains the same amounts of molecules tied to taste, color, and smell. As always bears repeating, no studies connect GMOs to any real health risks yet, although, for what it’s worth, it also appears seed and agrichemical giant Syngenta ponied up the money to fund the research study. Possibly the bigger problem is these researchers admit that, actually, they’ve never tasted their new creation — since they work in England, eating genetically modified
food would be against the law.
Still, it’s unlikely these particular tomatoes will make it to market, a USDA molecular biologist tells the Journal. Even improving shelf life probably won’t justify the cost to clear all of the regulatory hurdles right now and sell them; he guesses scientists will follow this study as a road map for what genes to target to optimize texture when cross-breeding varieties the old-fashioned way.