Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Breeding the Nutrition and Taste Out of Our Food?

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Carrots of many colors.

Carrots of many colors. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to an article in the New York Times by Jo Robinson, selective breeding of food crops is certainly not a new phenomenon.  According to her, the stripping of nutrients and in particular phytonutrients has been going on since the Agricultural Revolution began 10,000 years ago.  The article gives us  three examples, a wild dandelion, a purple potato, and a species of apple all of which contained many times more phytonutrients than their present counterparts.

This occurred because our ancestors using selective breeding techniques chose variants that were less bitter than others.  The problem is that most of the beneficial phytonutrients have sour or bitter characteristics. Also a preference for salt, sugar and fat was favored over those fruits and vegetables higher in fiber.

So crossbreeding began with taste preferences.  Most varieties were selected for flavor predominantly a sweeter taste.  But after reading Tomatoland, genetic crossbreeding techniques were primarily to satisfy the grower’s profit needs leaving the tomato a tasteless, bland nutrition-less fruit.

This makes one wonder what the effect of modern genetically modified food techniques will do to the nutrients and the taste found in our present varieties of grains, fruits and vegetables and future foods under consideration.  Some research shows that GMOs produce “massive changes in the natural functioning of (a) plant’s DNA.   Native genes can be mutated, deleted, or permanently turned off or on.  The inserted gene can become shortened, fragmented, inverted or multiplied that may alter nearby genes.  In the quest for a desirable trait, the protein it produces may change the original characteristics to a less desirable or less healthy trait.

Presently (with few exceptions), GMO foods have been promoted by the huge chemical companies of Monsanto or Dow Chemical to increase yields and profits from patents, and not to enhance the taste or nutritional characteristics.

Have any of these characteristics been tested?  Most research on GMO foods is limited and controlled by the very industries that profit from them. Has flavor or nutrition been affected – no one knows?


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