1. These “FrankenFish” will beat the you-know-what out of your standard Atlantic salmon.
Currently under review by the FDA, the AquAdvantage salmon have “the potential to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon,” according to AquaBounty Technologies, and “are identical to other Atlantic salmon.” Sounds like a win-win business model. But environmentalists say these farmed fish can escape their enclosures, and are concerned that with mega-salmon in the wild, natural salmon populations will decline even faster than they already are. As for the humans eating them, Food & Water Watch notes in its “FrankenFish” report, “Long-term studies have yet to be conducted to assess human health risks associated with eating transgenic fish.”
2. Finally, science gives us tomatoes that will ensure we never have to eat those awful, tasteless blueberries again.
The darker color is meant to give tomatoes a pigment known as anthocyanin, an antioxidant found in fruits like blueberries that may help fight cancer. “With these purple tomatoes you can get the same compounds that are present in blueberries and cranberries that give them their health benefits,” says Professor Cathie Martin, one of the developers at the John Innes Centre in the U.K. “But you can apply them to foods that people actually eat in significant amounts and are reasonably affordable.”
A new study out of Sweden, however, shows antioxidants in large doses can actually be harmful to people with certain kinds of cancer. And critics of GMOs say we don’t need blomatoes: “Nature has already designed all the right foods we need to ‘fight cancer,’” Michele Simon, the author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back, told BuzzFeed. “We just need the junk food industry to stop promoting all the wrong foods that cause it.”
3. If the pig poop is toxic, don’t change the food. Change the pig.
What do you do when you have too much toxic pig poop around? Genetically modify your pigs so they make cleaner poop, duh.
Typical pig feed in the U.S. and Canada consists of corn and other cereal grains, which, as even humans know, aren’t easy to digest. The phosphorous in these grains is a particular problem, as it comes out the other end in the form of phosphorous-laden pig poop, which can make its way into nearby water supplies. Farmers, therefore, supplement pig feed with an enzyme called phytase to help the pigs digest and absorb the phosphorous. But the added phytase doesn’t do a particularly good job and the toxic poo is still a problem. Enter Canadian Enviropigs, which are engineered to make phytase themselves, making their poop a whole lot cleaner.
It’s worth noting that wild pigs, which aren’t raised on cereal grains, don’t need phytase to digest their food. “The problem isn’t with the pigs,” said Cathy Holtslander of Beyond Factory Farming. “The problem of hog operations polluting the water has to do with the whole industrialization scale that has been developed to raise hogs.”
(Consumer resistance to the Enviropig led the University of Guelph to halt the project.)
4. Now your apples will never brown, no matter how long ago they were sliced.
Unveiled by Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF) in January, non-browning versions of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples are being grown in test plots in New York and Washington while they await USDA approval.
These GMO apples may not pose a safety concern, according to Wendy Brannen of the U.S. Apple Association, but the organization is worried about what this will do to the image of regular apples. “As an industry, one of the concerns from the beginning has been, what will the consumer perception of this be? Will confusion over this product somehow detract from all of the wonderful, wholesome, healthy apples that are out there?” she said. “Is it really necessary? Browning is a naturally occurring process.”
But the Apple 2.0 will eliminate the need for sliced apple producers to treat the fruit with antioxidants to keep them looking fresh. And that could translate into a cost savings of 30%, according to Neal Carter, president of OSF.
5. A cabbage with the bite of a scorpion.
It’s the couple you didn’t know you were always rooting for: the Death Stalker of the Desert and the Sedentary Bloomer of the Patch. Scientists in Beijing have crossbred the scorpion with the cabbage and the result is a strain of cabbage that has its own venom instead of relying on pesticides to keep caterpillars from damaging crops. While caterpillars biting into the leaves will be poisoned and die, the toxin has been modified so it won’t be harmful to humans.
6. This corn will kill any insect that tries to cross it.
While most of the GMO corn grown in this country is used in animal feed, ethanol, and processed foods, genetically modified corn on the cob has been on grocery shelves since 2012. It is “engineered with three Bt-toxin genes that make the corn itself an insecticide,” according to Civil Eats, “plus a ‘Roundup Ready’ gene that enables the corn to withstand Monsanto’s herbicide glyphosate.” And you thought all corn needed was butter.
7. Human breast milk, now from dairy cows.
We may need to take “feeding our young” out of the category of things humans do better than animals. In China, cows are being engineered to produce milk intended to replace human breast milk.
Chinese scientists introduced human genes into bovine embryos in 2011, creating dairy cows whose milk “is identical to the human variety and has the same immune-boosting and antibacterial qualities as breast milk.”
The product is still undergoing tests, but animal welfare advocates are not on board. During two experiments led by the Chinese researchers, 10 of the 42 calves died shortly after birth. Six more died within six months. A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals in the U.K. said the organization was “extremely concerned” about how these cows were being produced. Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch UK, a biotechnology monitoring firm, echoed those sentiments, saying, “Ethically there are issues about mass producing animals in this way.”
The Chinese researchers tout the milk’s enhanced protein content, which includes lysozyme, an antimicrobial protein that protects newborns from bacterial infections. It’s naturally found in high amounts in human breast milk but low amounts in cow’s milk.
Determining whether the milk is safe is another story. “It is really hard to tell that, unless you do large clinical trials like you would a drug,” Wallace said. “So there will be uncertainty about whether it could be harmful to some people.”