Frankenfoods: Do the Benefits Outweigh the Dangers?

By: Dylan Rodgers

Now that people are becoming much more health-conscious and focusing on organic products, it would follow that genetically modified and chemically altered foods would be nearly out the window for fear of any backlash from angry, hemp-clad protesters. With a little research though, it is easy to see that 'frankenfoods' are far from obsolete. I guess the big question is, "Are genetically and chemically altered foods more beneficial than harmful?"

Immortal Tomatoes

Tomatoes are widely seen as the exemplar of genetically modified food. These plumpy, red fruits only have a shelf life of roughly 15 days. To prolong their fruit-filled lives, scientists have simply 'turned off' the genes that cause the tomato to ripen, a process used to extend the life of mango, papaya, and bananas as well.

The only difference between a regular tomato and a 'frankenmato' is that once genetically altered, they are much firmer and lasted almost three times as long in the market. This process has helped reduce the massive loss of almost 40 percent of fruit wasted because of ripening too quickly.

'Orange Juice'  Perfume by Calvin Klein

Ever wonder how you can buy 'fresh' orange juice in the dead of winter? No, there is no such thing as a Christmas Orange. Orange juice producers have found that by removing oxygen from freshly squeezed juice preserves it for far longer than otherwise possible. The only problem with this method is that it strips the juice of all its natural flavor, leaving it bland like liquid cardboard

Instead of accepting orange juice as a seasonal treat, the juice companies teamed up with major perfume companies to create "essence of orange" or fake flavoring in little packets administered to every batch. I guess it's not so bad, because even though it isn't really fit for drinking anymore, it is a ton of perfume for only $4.

Murderous Foods

Genetically modified corn does have benefits though. It is larger and packed with more kernels than ever before, and it can be made to grow short, a huge benefit in the gusty plains states. The problem with some genetically engineered corn (aside from creating super insects), Bt-corn to be specific, is its effects on human health and that of the entire freshwater ecosystem.

Bt-corn was implanted with a gene from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis. When consumed by the target insects, their intestinal cells literally burst like water balloons stretched beyond capacity. Caddisflies, a major food source for amphibians and fish, are genetically similar to the target insects and have been found to feed on corn plants ending in their ultimate demise. Even worse is that the corn pollen encoded with this genetic implant has gotten into fresh water supplies, targeting and killing caddisfly larvae. Bt-corn could potentially destroy the entire fresh water aquatic food chain in any place that it is grown.

Who Knew?

There are some obvious benefits to our ability to genetically modify the growth of foods. The fact that we can control how much we waste has already made a world of difference. There are also project attempting to make foods contain more nutrients, turning the everyday, average food into a super food. Otherwise, we must be careful in how we alter the things we eat; there are few things as important.

With this amazing power, we ought to use our heads a little better than we have. Who would have known that making our foods into pest-killing, toxic chemical factories would prove to be a bad idea?  And the orange juice thing is just gross. Because genetic and chemical modification doesn't seem to be going away, hopefully we'll keep our health and our ecosystem in mind as we continue this 'mad scientist' approach towards food.

What other 'frankenfoods' have you heard about?

Photo: Joost J. Bakker