Tomato Puzzle

Did you know that supermarket tomatoes taste bland because their growers have been selecting for uniform color? Yeah, there is a link between the gene that promotes uniformity in color and the deterioration in taste apparent in these tomatoes, as found by the studies discussed in this LA Times article.

This fact would be so darn interesting, if not for the fact that it’s missing the point: supermarket tomatoes have lost their taste because their growers are not selecting for taste. And where is this much more important note? Nowhere in the article.

“The results could lead breeders to slightly change the way they select tomatoes for production”, says a certain Mr Giovannoni, plant biologist at Cornell University, who is apparently part of this discovery. He then goes on to add that “now that it’s known that this mutation has negative consequences, you may find that growers begin selecting for fruit that is uniformly darker green, rather than uniformly lighter green.”

Obviously “selecting for taste” and “tasting a sample of your tomatoes” are not concepts indigenous to these growers, scientists, or even the journalist. Imagine a car manufacturer changing the design of a car every year to make it more appealing until, one decade later, a scientist realizes that these changes have compromised the car’s safety. We then go on to put forth the inescapable conclusion “now that these car manufacturers have realized what is compromising the safety of their cars, they will redesign the car in different ways from now on”.

Who is piloting the vessel and what have they been smoking?

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