A mushy tomato has the power to ruin an otherwise delicious bite. It can obliterate a perfect BLT and wreck a summertime caprese salad. One possible solution? Genetically modified organisms. According to a new paper published the journal Nature Biotechnology, scientists have found a way to re-engineer the tomato so it remains firm for a long time.
Researchers were able to mute a gene responsible for turning tomatoes into wrinkly, overly soft red bulbs of vegetal water, the Wall Street Journal reported. The GMO tomatoes "didn't show telltale ages of softening, like pruned skin, 14 days after harvesting, compared with wrinkled ones from normal plants," the Wall Street Journal wrote.
It has yet to be determined how these modified tomatoes taste, however. The scientists conducted their research in the U.K., where the consumption of genetically modified food is not allowed, the Wall Street Journal wrote. Still, the scientists guessed the fruits taste just fine. The research found that the GMO plants and the nonmodified plants had similar numbers of molecules that affect the taste, color and smell of the tomatoes.
Why this matters: The GMO tomatoes have a longer shelf life than regular tomatoes. This could impact how long grocery stores can shelve and sell their produce, ultimately affecting the health of the planet and the people in it. As Mic previously reported, 50% of produce grown in the U.S. goes to waste, largely because the produce isn't cosmetically appealing enough. Much of it is left to rot in landfills, where it emits harmful greenhouse gases that have been shown to contribute to climate change.
While the modified tomatoes might be good news for food waste, the jury is still undecided when it comes to the health effects of GMOs. A number of animal studies have reportedly shown that modified foods are safe to eat, Mic previously reported, while others have linked them to harmful effects on various organs — like the liver, heart and kidneys. For now, you might want to stick to tomatoes from your local farmer's market and eat them really, really fast.