About 1,000 tiny seeds of hybrid cherry tomatoes, named Summer Sun and valued at about one U.S. dollar each, are seen in a petrie dish in the photo above as a Hazera Genetics laboratory worker sorts them at company headquarters February 13, 2007 at Berurim in central Israel. One kilogram of Summer Sun seeds developed by Hazera Genetics, an Israeli company specializing in breeding and marketing non-GMO hybrid varieties of vegetable and field crops, was sold to growers in Europe for $350,000 or about 268,800 Euros, more than sixteen times the current price of gold.
The warm-yellow colored fruit, with high concentrations of sugar which makes for a unique honey sweet taste, retails in Europe for about $23.50, or about 18 Euros a kilogram. The seeds have been tinted blue, the company's trademark color. Note the future of tomatoes around the world, to get more sugar into them so they'll taste sweeter, in the hopes of attracting more people to buy and eat a sweeter tomato, another theme based on the habit or taste for sugar that brings people back for more when it comes to vegetables, compared to a more sour tomato taste.
Putting a gene in a tomato to make it taste more like sugar, is one way of genetically modifying edible plants. Another way is altering seeds at the genetic level to produce more crops. The bigger and sweeter highway when it comes to foods is controversial among some consumers. The same refers to processed foods getting saltier or sweeter to alter taste from the original or to increase the number of crops that can be grown from each seed.
Even wheat has changed so that it affects your body differently that wheat did in Biblical times or anytime before the industrial revolution. See how wheat has changed and how it changes your body in the article, " Mark Hyman, MD: Three Hidden Ways Wheat Makes You Fat."
GMO foods in the USA and controversy surround their regulation
In the USA, it has been almost 20 years since the first genetically modified foods showed up in produce aisles throughout the United States and the rest of the world, but controversy continues to surround the products and their regulation. Do GMO crops present risks to consumers or the environment? Some researchers say that the overregulation of GM foods is a response not to scientific evidence, but to a global campaign that disseminates misinformation and fear about these food sources. And others say that they want to eat only organic produce. The idea is to have an affordable choice.
Bruce Chassy, a professor emeritus of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, believes that after thousands of research studies and worldwide planting, "genetically modified foods pose no special risks to consumers or the environment" and are overregulated. Chassy elaborated on this conclusion at the 2013 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston on Feb. 17, 2013.
Are GMO crops overregulated or underregulated?
During his talk, "Regulating the Safety of Foods and Feeds Derived From Genetically Modified Crops," Chassy shared his view that the overregulation of GM crops actually hurts the environment, reduces global health and burdens the consumer, according to the February 18, 2013 news release, "Food science expert: Genetically modified crops are overregulated."
As you can read in various media, there are different views, opinions, and research reports on both sides of the issue. The bottom line for the consumer is what you put into your stomach and how it affects your allergies or other bodily processes over time. The bottom line for the farmer is how they observe and interpret the advantages of GM crops based on increased yields.
The consumer may not care about the yields or the farmer's income from increased yields, but worries about the safety of the crop and whether it's organic and free from pesticides and genetic changes from what nature first intended before the industrial revolution. There are two sides to every issue.
Farmers have witnessed the advantages of GM crops firsthand through increases in their yields and profit, and decreases in their labor, energy consumption, pesticide use and greenhouse gas emissions, Chassy said, according to the news release.
Safety evaluations for GMO foods and allergens
Despite these benefits, various regulatory agencies require newly developed GM crops to be put to the test with rigorous safety evaluations that include molecular characterization, toxicological evaluation, allergenicity assessments, compositional analysis and feeding studies. This extensive testing takes five to 10 years and costs tens of millions of dollars, and Chassy argues that this process "wastes resources and diverts attention from real food safety issues."
"With more than half of the world's population now living in countries that have adopted GM crops, it might be appropriate to reduce the regulatory scrutiny of GM crops to a level that is commensurate with science-based risk assessment," Chassy said in the news release, "Food science expert: Genetically modified crops are overregulated."
During his talk, Chassy chronicled the scientific tests used in pre-market safety assessments of GM foods and elaborate on the evidence from thousands of research studies and expansive GM plantings that he says show these crops do not present risks to consumers or the environment. The overregulation of GM foods is a response not to scientific evidence, Chassy said, but to a global campaign that disseminates misinformation and fear about these food sources.
Some worry about misinformation, and others tell consumers to just follow the money and see who profits from genetic changes to increase crops (or animals) based on making more income -- or for some farmers, just surviving and trying to hold onto the family farm. Then again, there's the organic local produce movement focused on eating the best possible produce, animals, or seafood for health as a goal. Who's watching the watchers?