Biotechnology - Changing Our Food

Cloning, cell fusion, mutation, and genetic manipulation may sound like Star Trek terminology, but each is a process scientists use on food in today's laboratories.

The scientific revolution known as biotechnology is under 20 years old, yet it is already changing our tomatoes, milk, fruit and other types of food. Examples:

  • By isolating a single gene that makes tomatoes rot rapidly, they genetically engineered a tomato that stays firm longer, but is the same in all other respects.
  • Another tomato plant is being altered to contain bacterial protein that is toxic to plant-eating insects, but not other living things.
  • A pituitary hormone produced in cattle increases milk production when injected into cows.

The ultimate question may be: How many properties can scientists change in an organism before it becomes something else? That happened when they crossed a tangerine with a grapefruit. The result is now sold as a tangelo.

Soon, there may be low-fat, low-cholesterol steaks; long-lasting nutritionally superior vegetables; and fruits abundant because of extended growing seasons — all courtesy of this biotechnology.