Hightower: Genetically Engineered Tomatoes

As Shakespeare wrote, "The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray." And thank goodness they do -- at least in the case of some diabolical plans that Calgene Incorporated had to "improve" one of nature's most-perfect foods: the tomato. Combining equal doses of mad science, corporate greed, and government acquiescence, Calgene patented, produced, and began marketing a Brave New Tomato last year -- a tomato genetically engineered to resist rotting. The idea was that Calgene could ship its bionic tomatoes from further away and keep them in supermarket bins longer than nature's own, thus letting the company dominate the tomato industry. But "The Thing from Calgene" just couldn't cut it with us consumers, who're naturally wary of putting a big, thick slice of genetic manipulation on our children's BLTs. Besides, the Supertomato was variously reported as tasting "unnatural," "metallic" and "weird." Also, grocers complained that the Calgenes often arrived bruised and got mushy -- "garbage" is what one produce buyer called genetically-engineered tomatoes, saying flatly: "I never want to see them again." Me either, but we're not safe yet. Calgene Inc. was rotting on the vine, about to drop into bankruptcy -- until Monsanto recently bought heavily into the company. Monsanto, the chemical giant, is big on the idea of profiting by using genetics and artificial hormones to alter our food supply -- even though this might alter us. And Monsanto is bigger yet on the idea of keeping its food-tampering a secret. They've led the lobbying charge in Washington to prevent any labelling requirements on altered food products -- meaning you wouldn't even know what you're buying. To get in-the-know and to fight back against these food manipulators, join the watchdog group called Pure Food: 202-775-1132.

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