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How genetically engineered fruits and vegetables will soon emerge as a grocery store ‘selling point rather than a scare tactic’

Fruits and veggies are nature's gift to humanity. Chock full of vitamins, delicious and colorful, they deserve a starring role in our diets. But some things tend to get in our way, like seasonality, cost, availability, and inconsistent or off-putting flavor. When we're also surrounded by cheap, delicious, and ubiquitous processed foods, it's all too easy to reach for the chips instead of the cherries.

But now, thanks to new genomic techniques, we're starting to see a wave of bioengineered produce that enhance the nutritional value or accessibility of the original varieties. To name a few examples: there's the Norfolk purple tomato in the U.S., which incorporates two genes from snapdragons to increase production of anthocyanin in the tomato, a rich source of antioxidants. There's the high-GABA tomato in Japan, which uses CRISPR to quadruple the level of that amino acid, which can help lower blood pressure. There's the Arctic Apple, which uses RNAi to knock out the apples' own gene that causes it to brown when bruised or sliced. These sliced apples have an extended shelf life of 28 days and result in reduced food waste. And there's the CRISPR'd salad mix that removes the wasabi-like flavor from mustard greens, which have double the nutritional value of romaine lettuce.

"If you look five years into the future as the gene editing market expands, there should be hundreds and hundreds of products by that point," says Jon Entine, executive director of the non-profit Genetic Literacy Project, which focuses on biotech in medicine and agriculture. "You might even see sections of grocery stores that highlight this in a positive way."

Genetically engineered foods as a selling point rather than a scare tactic would be a welcome and remarkable shift for a culture that has erroneously demonized it for years, going back to Golden Rice.


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