Genetically modified, altered or engineered fruit are foods which have had change introduced into their DNA. Specific laboratories are used to engineer plants by altering their genetic makeup. They are then tested in these laboratories for the desired qualities. Once satisfied, the producer will apply for approval. Usually field testing follows which involves cultivating the plants on a farm. If successful, the producer will apply for another approval to market the fruit. Once they have been approved, they are sold to farmers who will plant, cultivate and harvest the fruit.
Some fruit can be genetically modified in such a way that they become resistant to certain diseases or pesticides. Throughout history farmers have raised their plants to achieve specific results such as improved taste or yield. However, this kind of farming relies on natural reproductive processes. Genetically modified fruit involves the addition of genes that would not normally occur in the natural environment.
Several common ingredients are derived from genetically modified crops such as corn starch and soy protein making it hard to avoid them altogether. In the US, almost 70% of foods on the supermarket shelves have been genetically modified, the exception being fruit and vegetables.
Papayas, corn on the cob, strawberries, squash and zucchini have all been modified. Papayas grown in Hawaii are now resistant to the ringspot virus. Most corn used as animal feed in the USA, is genetically modified. Bioengineers are attempting to modify strawberries in such a way that they won’t turn to mush after they’ve been frozen. Some foods such as potatoes, seedless watermelon, salmon, rice were thought to be genetically modified but actually weren’t. Recently genetically modified fruits such as grapples, lematos, pluots and tangelos are all hitting the market shelves.
Governments use several different processes to manage the use of genetic modifying technology. There are a lot of differences though, between regulations in the United States and Europe. They vary according to intended use. The Food and Drug Administration in the USA are responsible for checking the chemical composition of organisms especially for potential allergens. The US Department of Agriculture monitors the distribution of genetically modified seeds as well as field testing, whilst the USA Environmental Protection Agency monitors pesticide usage.
64 countries around the world require labeling if their food has been genetically modified. However, in the USA, food companies are not required to let consumers know. There are bills being put forward to add such a requirement and the support shown for this is phenomenal.
Some groups such as Greenpeace and Organic Consumers Association have claimed that certain risks have not been identified and managed. Other health groups claim that the potential impact on human health has not been assessed adequately.
The future of genetically engineered foods will be determined by the products quality, economics and consumer trust. Some consumers may be afraid to eat a modified fruit, even if it does look so desirable. The next question is if they are willing to eat it, will they be willing to pay for it?