Wednesday, January 27, 2021

What are We Sacrificing for External Beauty?

In ‘s June 28 New York Times article “Flavor is the Price of Scarlet Hue of Tomatoes, Study Finds,” she reveals that scientists have found the reason why modern tomatoes have lost their robust sweetness.

The reason?

They had genetically altered a gene in order that tomatoes could bear a uniform luscious scarlet color when ripe.   As it turns out, this focus on external tomato beauty actually compromised its flavor.

“in trying to make the fruit prettier, they reduced some of the important compounds that are linked to flavor.”

Funny thing is … I never minded the bumps and lumps of an Heirloom tomato because the taste is so fabulous.  In fact, I find them beautiful in their own unique way.

green and red tomatoes

photo courtesy of S. Zhong and J. Giovannoni, The New York Times

If — as a culture — we are willing to sacrifice a tomato’s summer sweetness for its beauty, what else are we willing to give up?

How far are we willing to go?  Let’s see …. are we willing to …. Inject our faces with botox (aka: botulism virus)?  Go under the knife for silicon implants?  Take diet pills?  Endure liposuction?  Air brush models? ….

Decades from now, what will scientists find that we have lost as a result of prioritizing beauty in the way that we do, individually, culturally, or as a species?

Good news, for the tomato, I suppose, (and for those of us who crave their natural sweetness), is that this research may mean tastier samplings in future farmer’s markets.  For tomatoes, they get a “do-over.”

Do we?

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