Playing With Our Food: Has the Perfect Broccoli Gone Too Far?
If you don’t get enough fruits and vegetables, maybe changing up your traditional veggies will make them more appealing. That’s what plant scientist Thomas Bjorkman has been experimenting with at Cornell University. He’s on a mission to create the “perfect” broccoli, which will supposedly be much tastier than the broccoli we eat today. Since 90% of broccoli sold in the U.S. is actually grown in California, it’s spent a long time sitting in warehouses and on delivery trucks before it reaches your grocery stores. While that isn’t a problem for a lot of fruits and vegetables, broccoli tastes best when eaten fresh, right after it’s picked. If left out for too long, it develops a bitter, rubbery and sulfurous taste.
That’s why Bjorkman wants to develop a new perfect broccoli which could grow in all different types of climates around the country so that it wouldn’t need to develop a negative aftertaste while it’s waiting to be shipped. He also claims his perfect broccoli would taste even better than regular broccoli: it would be sweeter and much tenderer. To date, the Cornell lab have already created apples that don’t get brown as quickly as regular apples, snap peas without the stringiness, and habanero peppers with flavor but not spice.
They’re not the only ones to experiment with the taste, size, and shape of food. A few years ago, Japanese farmers developed a cube-shaped watermelon, so that people would be able to easily pack and store this fruit. To create the square shape, the farmers grew watermelon in square glass boxes and the fruit grew into that shape. But unlike what Bjorkman claims—that these modified foods can be cost-effective—the cube watermelon came with a hefty price tag: about $83 for each melon.
Besides the cost and unnatural feel of these experimentations, it leaves me wondering: has this taken food experimentation to a whole new level? Is playing around with our food healthy or is this going to lead to new food dangers?
The scientists behind these new developments say they can maximize the health benefits of these fruits and veggies and even make them more affordable and appealing, to ultimately help Americans reap the health benefits. But are these food experimentations—and potential food dangers—driven by something else?
Bjorkman and his team claim that his “innovations” will help Americans eat more fruits and vegetables, but he’s also partnered with big names in the food industry to get his products out there—in particular, Monsanto, the corporate giant that millions of consumer advocate groups protest against for tricking small farmers into buying their genetically modified seeds, with a promise of big profits, higher crop yields, and less work—forcing the farmers to depend entirely on them for these seeds in a global competition for food production. The corporate giant is also known for robbing and suing small family farmers, after they failed to adhere to their user agreements, and for creating and strongly supporting genetically modified food—which many people claim can cause devastating health effects, including cancer, fertility problems, and digestive issues.
If Bjorkman and his Cornell lab were really looking out for the interests of everyday Americans, then they could’ve found another organization to partner with, instead of one that has millions of people protesting against it all over the world. Monsanto has spent years lobbying the government to block all efforts for GMO labeling—essentially blocking the right to transparent food labeling.
Let’s give his team the benefit of the doubt and say they really do believe they can make vegetables more appealing to children—which will help Americans receive the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables—and ultimately be free of any food dangers. There’s still another problem: if we continue to develop “better” fruits and vegetables, like this perfect broccoli, what does that mean for future generations? Will our children grow up in a world believing that watermelons naturally grow in cube shapes? Will we train our taste buds to prefer these lab-made vegetables, so that eating unaltered locally-grown fruits and vegetables tastes foreign? Just as our parents tell us how they survived without cell phones and Facebook, will we soon be telling our children that we used to eat round watermelons and be shocked at their bewildered faces?
Benson, J., “Hundreds of thousands of people in more than 50 countries rallied against Monsanto, GMOs,” NaturalNews web site; http://www.naturalnews.com/040614_March_against_Monsanto_GMOs_GMO_labeling.html, last accessed July 15, 2013.
“Square fruit stuns Japanese shoppers,” BBC News web site; http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/1390088.stm, last accessed July 15, 2013.
Binder, L., “‘Perfect’ broccoli: healthy or profit-driven?” Institute for Integrative Nutrition web site; http://blog.integrativenutrition.com/2013/07/%E2%80%9Cperfect%E2%80%9D-broccoli-healthy-or-profit-driven, last accessed July 15, 2013.