Rotten Tomato Science


The successful sequencing of the tomato genome will lead to tastier varieties within five years say scientists.

They believe that the elusive flavour of home grown tomatoes will by then be widely available in supermarkets.

Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers say the genetic information could reduce the need for pesticides.

Nice, tasty, tomatoes. Two methods.

Method 1

Step 1.1: Get some seed

Step 1.2: Get some compost (or make some)

Step 1.3: Plant seed in said compost

Step 1.4: Wait (water occasionally)

Step 1.5: Pick tomato. Eat.

Method 2

Step 2.1: Sequence tomato genome

Step 2.2: Develop genetic hybrid

Step 2.3: Develop complimentary chemical fertilizer mix and pesticide mix

Step 2.4: Patent said hybrid, genome, fertilizer and pesticides

Step 2.5: Develop marketing materials, sell new gmo tomato to farmers (it’s all new it actually tastes like tomatoes!)

Step 2.6: Get farmer and greenhouse, get oil to run it, grow tomato

Step 2.7: Harvest tomato

Step 2.8: Make deal with supermarket to sell tomato

Step 2.9: Transport tomato to supermarket (spray it some more for good measure)

Step 2.10: Have supermarket sell tomato to customer

Step 2.11: Bring tomato home. Eat.

Anybody think that what we might be missing is not a genome (though that’s all cool to have tomato genome sequenced) but rather a radical rethink?

3 thoughts on “Rotten Tomato Science

  1. Of course, industrial agriculture is what powers modern cities, what would sustain billions of people (if we were so inclined) and ultimately allow modern civilisation – and it is incompatible with, well, freshness. As much as I like to make my own I am very aware it can only ever be a complement and a pastime, until I pull a Fearnley-Whittingstall and move to Dorset.

  2. Accepting anything as a “natural”, “given” or “only solution” is in my mind a clear indication that something’s not right. Yes, in Sweden, nothing grows except for a few months in summer. Sure that means that we might (in order to sustain a lifestyle that allows us to live longer than say 50) need to find ways to either import or produce food.

    The industrial agricultural system is not working and if you think it is you’re wrong. It’s clear from a number of indicators that the system is failing – obesity, health care costs, environmental harm (CO2 from transport, cold storage, water usage, etc. etc.).

    The ‘sustenance’ in western countries you are talking about is bs. We’re not sustaining ourselves. We’re gorging on non-seasonal vegetables, red meat, processed chemical mixes (not really foods are they?) and fruit flown half across the world. That’s not a food system which works nor would I call it very developed.

    Now, I agree, with the current set of incentives it might be hard to envision a different system as possible. But I firmly believe that there must be one. And maybe not in Sweden, but surely in Delhi, it is a fact that every family, could, with say 15-20 min of effort per day, grow all the tomatoes they could need. 90% of Havana’s fresh produce comes from organic urban farming. The fact that petrochemicals became so scarce after the Soviet forced them to shift their system. Even if Cuba might not be the premier example of how we want all of the world to look like – the fact of the matter is that despite heavy trade restrictions we hardly hear of starvation or food shortages from Havana?

    While I’m not one to say no to science, I think that we must consider the whole systems rather than trying to fix one symptom (poorly tasting tomatoes). It’s like trying to treat the headaches of a patient with brain tumors. Yes, understanding the genomes is a valuable exercise. However, thinking that that’s the way we’re going to fix our problem with food is just not cutting it.

  3. I’m not saying industrial agriculture is problem-free, though I diverge on precisely what the main issues are and what can be attributed specifically to agriculture. I would think obesity is another problem altogether. I am saying, however, that it is a necessary solution for modern urban development, and that consequences of that solution include the engineered produce you rail against.

    By way of example I highly doubt that a city of the character of, say, Lilla Essingen or Malviya Nagar, to take a familiar example, could be self-sustaining in terms of food, considering population density alone. Even if you were to suspend plastic containers in the windows, fill terraces and balconies with pots and plants, and plant tomatoes in green patches, would you generate enough agricultural supplies to feed 6000 people per square kilometer? Perhaps you could, I’m not the one to rule it out, but I doubt it.

    Havana is an interesting example but the population density is half that of Stockholm city, a fraction of metropolis like Manhattan or Shanghai. Havana is a small city even by European standards and but a hamlet to Asians or Americans. Perhaps we could construct cities like Havana to be free of industrial agriculture, but not the urban development we need to sustainably house the people and business of the 21st century.

    That said, I like the concept of urban farming and I think it can provide a viable complement to industry. Take Swedish kolonilotter, where green spaces are divided and rented out to willing communal gardeners. It’s a brilliant system and put in place in urban spaces: there’s an area round the corner from my flat in Uppsala and I know there are areas in Observatoriebacken in central Stockholm. That’s an organisational structure, a business solution, that should be encouraged in European cities as well as elsewhere. But it can’t feed a city.

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