Q. Is it true that most tomatoes sold in the US are genetically modified (GMO)? And if so, does this have a bearing on the safety of the tomatoes we eat?
A. Tomatoes were the first genetically modified foods to come on the market in the US, in 1994, with the Flavr Savr tomato, promising to be vine-ripened for fuller flavor and yet have a long shelf life. Sales declined dramatically by 1998, however, after consumer fears about GMO ingredients. Today the Flavr Savr is no longer cultivated and no genetically modified tomatoes are being grown commercially in North America or in Europe.
Despite consumer anxieties, there was no evidence that GMO tomatoes were less safe than conventional tomatoes. “No harm has been demonstrated with ingestion of these foods from genetically modified plants,” says Irwin H. Rosenberg, MD, editor of the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter. “The opposition, while raising questions of safety, has actually been cultural rather than scientific. Even arguments against GMOs on environmental impacts have not been supported empirically.”
To learn more about GMO pros and cons, see our November 2013 Special Report.