Frustrated by flavorless fruits and vegetables? Genetic engineering is poised to change that

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Credit: Danny Kim/Time
Credit: Danny Kim/Time

You might be surprised that flavour ever went out of fashion.

But finding truly tasty fruit and vegetable varieties can be difficult, largely due to the requirements of supermarkets, [vegetable supplier Franco Fubini] says.

“They started demanding that varieties have a longer shelf life, so for example in the case of a tomato, it has a thicker skin, so the skins don’t split more easily; a tomato that perhaps ripens faster, that can absorb more water.

“So over time you breed your varieties for attributes other than flavour. The flavour attribute starts falling in importance, and as nature has it, if you breed for other traits you breed out flavour.”

It is possible to use genetic modification (GM) to improve flavour by importing genes from other species, but in much of the world produce created this way is banned.

However, other forms of genetic manipulation are more widely accepted. US firm Pairwise is working on new fruit and vegetable varieties by using CRISPR.

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One of Pairwise’s first products, expected in a year or two, will be a seedless blackberry it says will have a more consistent taste than traditional varieties. It is also working on a stoneless cherry.

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