Ever wondered what your favorite fruits and vegetables would have looked like or tasted like before human intervention was introduced in the picture of agriculture history? The topic of Genetically Modified Foods, or GMOs, invokes a strong resentment- from the general population and activists alike-for they circulate an air of deceit about how the cultivation process of plants and their fruits is “scientifically” intercepted in order to metamorphose them into something that can be sold quickly. A lot of researchers claim that there would be a stark difference between how a product tastes before undergoing “scientific” treatment and after it has been converted into a selling item.
Be it the Domestication of Fruits and Vegetables through GMOs or Selective Breeding (the art of selecting and growing corps that emanate properties like “pest resistance”), the food that ultimately serves our platter gets touched up in more than one way. Here are some of the foods that represent the transformation their original ancestors underwent after Science met Agriculture.
6. Wild Watermelon
The above painting by a 17th century artist-Giovanni Stanchi-displays a watermelon that no human being has ever seen. The painting which was created between 1645 and 1672, shows swirly shapes in the center that is marked off in six separate sections. Over the course of years, humans changed the complexion of watermelon from a bitter fruit with hard, pale-green flesh to the one with red, fleshy center. Ancestral watermelons, like the ones shown in the above picture, were thought to be cultivated in Africa before spreading north into Mediterranean countries and, later, to other parts of Europe.
Through generations of Selective breeding, Watermelons were imparted with their-now familiar- red hue (which is basically its placenta), because the gene for the color red was paired with the gene that determined the sugar content. As watermelons were bred to become even sweeter, their interior gradually changed color. The watermelon, delicious as it is, has increased from 50 mm to 660 mm in diameter, which represents a 1680-fold increase in volume. While ancient “wild watermelons” weighed no more than 80 grams, modern watermelons can range from 2 kg to 8 kg in the supermarket, while the Guinness World Record for the heaviest watermelon recorded exceeded 121 kilograms in the year 2000. (Source)
5. Wild Banana
Bananas have been thought of cultivated first at least 7,000 years ago and as early as 10,000 years ago in what is now Papua New Guinea and they have been found to grow in Southeast Asia. One of the fruit’s wild ancestors-named Musa acuminata- was a small okra-like pods that were bred to produce seedless fruit. The other ancestor- named Musa balbisiana- was crossed with the former ancestor to produce plantains, and it is from plantains that our modern generation of bananas have evolved. The Modern Bananas have much smaller seeds, taste better, and are packed with nutrients.
On a genetic level, a prominent danger lies in the form of Fusarium Oxysporum Tropical Race Four (or, colloquially, Banana HIV thanks to its incurable potency), a soil-borne fungus, that is ripping through the genetically identical plants of the global Cavendish supply. This has resulted in the Modern Bananas at a risk of extinction. Fears run amok in anticipation that the disease will soon spread to Latin America, where 82 percent of the world’s $8.9 billion-per-year banana supply is grown. The best bet that has been decided to counter this situation is Genetic Modification of Bananas by engineering Cavendishes and other bananas with a promising resistance to Race Four. (Source)
4. Wild Eggplant
Wild eggplants, in ancient times, were observed in various shapes and sizes such as white, azure, purple, and yellow. Interestingly, some of the primitive versions of this vegetable even had spikes where the stem used to connect to the flower. Through Selective breeding, it was possible to remove the spikes and introduce the larger, familiar, oblong purple vegetable.
In 2009, eggplants were rigged with a “natural insecticide” to drive away fruit and shoot borers, bugs which routinely ravage crops throughout India, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines. The bug-killing eggplants were called Bt eggplants because their new insecticide-producing powers came from the spliced-in genes of the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis. (Source)