I’m a tomato naturalist. That’s obvious the second you look at this website. So needless to say, I am against genetically modified tomatoes, or GMOs (and any other genetically modified produce) for that matter. In theory, they are great, they allow the tomato more time to stay on the vine and ripen. They are easier to ship around the country or globe so you can pick them at their peak. The method for commercial tomato farming is to pick them before they ripen and let them reach peak ripeness in route to market.
Now I don’t eat a lot of inorganic, non-locally grown tomatoes. I have my own garden and I get tomatoes from friends, so it’s not often I go to the mega-mart down the street and by a regular old tomato. I guess I’m just a snob.
The spread of genetically modified tomatoes would show more of the world just how amazing tomatoes can taste, but GMOs always seemed to lack flavor to me. Most people will tell you that allowing the tomato to ripen on the vine gives it more flavor, so maybe it’s a mental thing for me, but when they were commercially grown in the 90’s they just did not seem right.
I think there is some science behind what I’m saying. As I always mention, I’m not a botanist, just a craft gardener, but I can explain my rationale… Non-GMO commercially grown tomatoes are usually a little dry. They get such an aggressive and potent shot of fertilization that their roots are just right for adding a lot of moisture to the plant, but depending on where you live in the country they may be considerably dryer when they reach your supermarket. Even if you live in an area with a long growing season, commercially grown tomatoes have probably been drying out for at least a week as they’ve been disconnected from the vine/roots.
Genetic modification reversed this process. Tomatoes sat on the vine, collecting a lot of H20. They were very watery, and as you know, water has no taste. I love juicy tomatoes sometimes, but too much water does exactly what you think it will do – water down the flavor.
There is a movement to bring back GMOs, but luckily they are still unavailable in the United States and Europe. The way to eat a tomato is to pick it at peak ripeness. This is impossible commercially, so growers need to optimize harvesting time for freshness and shipping capacity. I may be a snob, but I know that there is a place for commercial growing. It saves people money and it makes tomatoes accessible to millions. Not everyone is into being their own gardener, and not everyone has the money to shop at a place like Whole Foods. Also, many people don’t have access to farmer’s markets.
However, what I also know is that consumers like to shop where the produce tastes best (with some price elasticity factored in). Genetically modified tomatoes just don’t taste better. They end up a lot more watery, and although in theory that will produce a more flavorful fruit, their actual outcome is overly watery.