Not Your Average Tomato

What does your average tomato most often lack?

Tomato flavor, unfortunately.

In 1994, gene scientists brought the first genetically engineered food to market. GMO corn and soybean are widely planted and consumed (directly and indirectly) in the United States today, but these were not the first crops to reach farmers and consumers. Rather, it was the “Flavr Savr” tomato, which promised to last longer on store shelves and taste better than its competition.

And while it arguably lived up to expectations, the business model was unsuccessful and the Flavr Savr disappeared from store shelves and from public consciousness. Nevertheless, the biotech industry as a whole as it relates to agriculture has since flourished, but of course, not in the realm of fresh market vegetables. Despite widespread adoption of GMO technology by farmers, a segment of the population is wary of its products. What was the public response to the Flavr Savr? And how did this botched attempt to market a GMO product impact agriculture and the food industry?

For anyone interested in agricultural technology, plant breeding, and/or the debate and controversy concerning GMOs, I suspect you’ll find the story of the Flavr Savr illuminating. The tale is deftly delivered in the most recent installment of Retro Report. RR is a non-profit documentary news organization that peels “back the layers of some of the most perplexing news stories of our past with the goal of encouraging the public to think more critically about current events and the media.”  The ten-minute long documentary video on the Flavr Savr can be viewed here.

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