The Tomato: an icon of monoculture

Tomatoes are a native of Peru. Almost every culture has now adapted its use into their respective food traditions. Ketchup the gift of Americans to the world and Indian recipes - the rasam from the south to the chole from the North Indian are proofs of the adaptability of the vegetable. This globally popular vegetable being highly perishable became is a model for GMO research. The first genetically modified food for approved in 1994 for human consumption was the tomato. Genetic modification of the vegetable is being investigated also for such purposes as increasing insect resistance and also as a delivery vehicle for vaccines.

Insect resistant variety of the tomato which requires the introduction of a gene that is poisonous to insects, has been controversial. Data suggesting chemical pesticides as a suspect in the increase of deseases such as autism, is the reasons for growing activism against genetic modifications also. Reduction of bio-diversity is yet another major concern against GMO food. Peruvian Indians raised their voices loud and clear about the bio-diversity concerns to get their country to ban GMO food. The model GMO vegetable in its genetically modified form, is now out of the land of its origin!

Food companies claim that the growing world population needs drastic innovations such as genetic modifications. The activists claim that the food industry is poisoning everyone in the quest for higher profits. But how much of the problem is sustained because of a monoculture sweeping through the world? The current debate doesn't appear to have any clear winners. The debate could be contained if each country promotes its native food habits. Smaller sized food markets may encourage the food industry to fully consider locally available organic options. History text books in a few decades will likely discuss the mono-culture aberration of the 21st century as a phase towards globalization.