Genetically modified lab-created kale-Brussel sprouts Kalettes embraced by anti-GMO foodies

o
Image via Kalettes Facebook

Veggie-lovers, look out for a new vegetable in grocery stores this fall. Developed by Tozer Seeds, a British vegetable breeding company, the new vegetable is a hybrid: a cross between kale and Brussel sprouts, dubbed Kalettes. It has already taken off in the United Kingdom under the name Flower Sprouts. And it is genetically modified.

Thailan Pham, writing for Self magazine, wants to try these Kalettes as soon as possible:

Superfood kale, packed with nutrients and antioxidants combined with fiber-filled Brussels sprouts means our mind is blown and we want it on our plates, asap.

Kimi Harris, a mommy blogger over at Mother Nature Network, says she’ll “be sure to try it.” She reassures readers that they have nothing to be afraid of hybrid vegetables:

And no, in case you’re wondering, hybrid vegetables are not the same as genetically modified crops. While genetically modified vegetables have been changed or tampered within their DNA, hybrid vegetables are created by simply cross breeding compatible plants.

Why isn’t there any resistance to this vegetable? Kalettes are a hybrid vegetable and clearly a product of genetic modification. But because the new hybrid was developed using traditional breeding methods, it doesn’t face the same resistance that genetically engineered crops do.

This is where the widespread use of the term “genetically modified” fails. The popular term GMOs, for genetically modified organisms, usually refers specifically to transgenic or cisgenic organisms, in which one or a few genes were transferred from another organism, or turned on or off to help the organism express particular desired genetic traits. The term implies that only these organisms and crops have been genetically modified. However, GMOs should really refer to all domesticated crops since agriculture began 10,000 years ago. Humans have completely changed crops through selecting, crossing and breeding, exposing to chemicals or radiation, and manipulating individual genes.

GLP-Infographic

Because of current widespread anti-GMO sentiments, Tozer Seeds has been careful to steer clear and emphasize their use of traditional breeding methods in producing the Kalettes. For example, @Kalettes responds to someone curious about Kalettes on Twitter:

But traditional breeding methods also involve meticulous genetic manipulation of the result in order to produce something they could sell. Heather Hansman reports in Modern Farmer:

It took Tozer almost 15 years until they felt like they had a marketable product. They tweaked the flavor to tone down the Brussels, worked on varieties that had longer growing seasons and bred in strains that they deemed more attractive. Even now, as it’s being sold, they’re still tweaking the details.

Those “details” are being “tweaked” using modern genetic manipulation methods. Meanwhile, a headline from Chip Chick refers to Kalettes as the “Kale and Brussels sprouts love child.” This might give the impression that two related vegetables can mate and come up with a hybrid “love child” ready to be sold in grocery stores. In reality, it takes a lot of laboratory experimenting (and gene-ius) to come up with a completely new, not-found-in-nature vegetable that farmers will grow, stores will sell and consumers will eat.

Ironically, a century ago, people were afraid and opposed to hybrid crops as ‘violatons of nature’ just as many today are wary of genetically engineered organisms. Pamela Ronald, professor of plant pathology at University of California, Davis, notes in Scientific American Classics that our fears of “plant tinkering technologies” have “persisted over time.” She quotes Maxwell T. Masters, president of the International Conference of Hybridization, from a 1899 Scientific American article included in the Classics issue:

Many worthy people objected to the production of hybrids on the ground that it was an impious interference with the laws of Nature.

So now, we have clearly moved past the fear and objection to hybrids, a big win for agriculture and consumers. When will we do the same for genetically engineered organisms?

 

Additional Resources:

 

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

As Europe sees record coronavirus cases and deaths, Slovakia is testing its entire adult population. WSJ's Drew Hinshaw explains how ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend