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Scientists Are Using Gene Editing To Create the Perfect Tomato For Your Salad ( 125

An anonymous reader shares an article: Geneticists are now using technology to isolate the precise genes responsible for excessive branching and flowering, characteristics which lead to less fruit and thus less yield for farmers. In a study published in the journal Cell last week, geneticist Zachary Lippman of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory explains his research team's efforts to fix mutated tomatoes using CRISPR gene editing technology. By identifying the genes associated with undesired mutations, Lippman was able to edit them and suppress their effects. After playing with the plant architecture, Lippman's team was ultimately able to engineer highly productive plants that yielded more of the desired fruit and less of the unwanted flowers and branches. Original research paper; further reading on Nature magazine.
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Scientists Are Using Gene Editing To Create the Perfect Tomato For Your Salad

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  • Does Mr. Lippman have permission from Molag Bal to perform this research?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    to GMO.

  • Perfect Tomato? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hired killer ( 665430 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2017 @02:45PM (#54479021)
    So, the perfect tomato for volume production is also the perfect tomato for your salad? I suppose that might be true accidentally.
    • Re:Perfect Tomato? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2017 @02:55PM (#54479081) Journal
      Yeah, I was hoping to read how they created the most delicious tomato possible. I guess that's harder than just increasing yields.
      • by mishehu ( 712452 )
        I've rarely tasted a tomato in this country that gave me a wow. Almost all the time they taste like plastic. The exception is home grown tomatoes. So this is just another attempt to increase yields and to hell with concerns over flavor.
        • Re:Perfect Tomato? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2017 @03:17PM (#54479227)

          Commercial tomatoes are no better in Europe. In both places, the only ripe commercial tomatoes are in cans or roadside stands.

          • This is sort of by design. The reason they are harvested early is so you don't get over ripe mush by time they ship them and receive them at the supermarket.

            It's also why locally farmed produce is usually better because they can fully vine ripen and still get on the shelves before they start to look awful.

            • Even if you live in one of the largest tomato producing regions, the ones in the grocery store are still harvested underripe. The ripe ones go to sauce.

              You'd think they could send ripe fruit to the stores right around the corner while it was in season, but they don't.

              In northern CA, before the giant cannery outside Davis closed, the tomatoes on the side of the highway (lost in transport to the cannery) were better than those in the stores.

        • Re:Perfect Tomato? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2017 @04:17PM (#54479643) Homepage Journal

          Tomatoes are harvested green and shipped. They don't develop the sugars that make them sweet because they're not ripened on the vine. Were they vine-ripened, shipping them to remote states would land you with rotting tomatoes.

          In practice, tomato flavor is related to the distance shipped from the harvesting operation. The logistics to get tomatoes to your table with less time between picking and purchasing are responsible for providing better flavor.

          • by mishehu ( 712452 )
            But even if you're local to where the tomato production is, you STILL have to go out of your way to get tomatoes that have any real flavor to them. That's what's so frustrating.
          • People complain about this a lot, but as a dork who grew tomatoes at home and looked up tomato forums, it's generally acknowledged that tomatoes don't really ripen on the vine. Once they start changing color at all, or even slightly before, you can pull them and put them in a paper bag. They will taste exactly the same upon getting ripe. In some areas of the country this is very common because of pests (squirrels, etc.) that eat half-ripened tomatoes left on the vine.

        • Apples have made great progress since the Red Delicious era. They may be able to make a tomato that tastes good and is commercially convenient. Some of the cherry tomato varieties nowadays are terrific.
      • Re:Perfect Tomato? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mnemotronic ( 586021 ) <> on Wednesday May 24, 2017 @04:01PM (#54479515) Homepage Journal

        Yeah, I was hoping to read how they created the most delicious tomato possible. I guess that's harder than just increasing yields.

        Efficient mass production, not flavor and nutritional content, are the goals of this research. The focus is more tomatoes per acre and higher yields on the grocer's shelf. Obviously the resulting tomato replica has to look like a tomato, act like a tomato, taste kinda like a tomato and be more-or-less non-toxic. If it fails the last 2 criteria we'll see if marketing spin it. The tomato, like the consumer, is a product to be manipulated for the profitability of the corporation.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Supermarket tomatoes are largely descended from a mutant discovered in the 1920s which ripened to a uniform red instead of with splotches of green. This produced a very attractive tomato, but with a drawback: it crippled the fruit's photosynthetic capability, resulting in a blander tomato.

      Add to this the fact that tomatoes are picked green for ease of shipping and then artificially "ripened" by exposure to ethylene. Ethylene triggers the softening of the tomato and the development of the red carotenoid pi

    • by Jzanu ( 668651 )
      This is the perfect tomato for human health. This research extends to tomatoes the same concept Norman Borlaug [] used to optimize the production of wheat and rice in the 60s. You know, the Green [] Revolution [] that legitimately kept the world from starving itself to death and decreased warfare. There are major health benefits [] from consuming tomatoes in any form, and this research increases production and descreases costs in a way that will increase tomato availability.
    • Obviously the perfect tomato that gives the perfect amount of profit.
  • Can you splice Tobacco genes in too and create Tomacco?
    • Kind of... []
      • That's interesting. I suppose you could also breed a true tomacco via selective breeding; but there's no incentive. Since there's already some nicotine in green tomatoes it would just be a matter of selecting for higher and higher concentrations. It ought to work just as the cross-breeding of cannabis strains created super high THC content.

    • If you're going to splice a tomato with anything else, splice with cannabis. Tobacco is a terrible choice.
    • Can you splice Tobacco genes in too and create Tomacco?

      I suppose you could, but now try keeping the stuff lit.

  • by Billy the Mountain ( 225541 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2017 @02:49PM (#54479039) Journal
    Perfect, CRISPR for the crisper!
  • Is this the part where Monsanto steps in to sodomize every poor person in the region with a billion dollar lawsuit, or does that come later?

  • Without the sunlight tomatoes won't be as tasty as possible.
    • I don't know about you but I don't put dish soap [] on my tomatoes.

      • if its good enough for oil covered baby ducks its good enough for your tomatoes. :P

        Seriously a light concentration of dish soap will help you wash away aphids nicely without any toxic residue.

  • don't get a hard one ......Guy Clark - Homegrown Tomatoes Lyrics | MetroLyrics []
  • flavor? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PhantomHarlock ( 189617 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2017 @03:00PM (#54479129)

    I'm more interested in work being done to bring back flavor in tomatoes [], which for some time now have been selected for looks rather than taste.

    • Plant heirloom varieties.
    • Here's an exercise for you.

      Grow a tomato plant. When you have large, hard, green tomatoes, pick a few and put them in a brown paper bag.

      Eat those tomatoes when they ripen. Compare them to tomatoes which ripen on the vine. As well, hold onto a tomato picked at optimal ripeness, and a tomato picked when green; time how long before each begins to soften, wrinkle, and rot.

      You want tasty tomatoes? Live closer to the farm.

      • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
        It's not that simple. Supermarket tomatoes are have to be able to survive the trip to supermarket. So they can't just let them ripen on the vine - it makes the skin brittle and ready to burst. However, if you knock out a couple of genes, then you can decouple the process of ripening from thinning of the skin.
    • They already found it []. Grocery stores don't care.

      Recently, an industrial grower told Klee what he sees as the Garden Gem’s flaw: It’s a bit small—about 50 grams. (Some very large tomatoes reach a weight of 250 grams.) A small tomato entails incrementally higher labor costs, because it requires a few more plucks per pound.

      Tomato growers are open to growing better-tasting varieties in principle, but only if they get paid more for it. Supermarkets, on the other hand, insist that shoppers only care about price. And can you blame them? After decades of eating tomatoes that taste like wet paper towels, no one thinks tomatoes are worth much.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2017 @03:01PM (#54479133)
    It did not end well. [] Blood, ketchup everywhere...
  • NOT on my salad... Where I don't "hate" them.... What am I saying, I hate raw tomatoes in all forms, salads, sandwiches you name it.

    • I bet you even hate the tomatoes in your ketchup! Tomato hater!

      • Ketchup is cooked.... I like ketchup, pizza, even tomato soup or sundried tomatoes mixed in my pasta... Heck, I even like tomato chunks in hot soups (as long as they are cooked). But RAW tomatoes? You can have mine... PLEASE take mine....

    • by Strider- ( 39683 )

      I'm with you... I love anything Tomato, as long as it's cooked. Sun dried tomatos? yum... Sauces, diced, canned, etc... ? Yum... Catsup? well, that's mostly just corn syrop, vinegar, and spices, but it's fine in moderation.

      But raw tomato? no thanks. I've tried many, including those where I'm told their fantastic, and they just don't sit well. I'll eat them if served to be polite, but I'd rather not.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... for something im just going to throw in the trash.

  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2017 @03:22PM (#54479271)
    The title of the paper is: "Bypassing Negative Epistasis on Yield in Tomato Imposed by a Domestication Gene"
    The title of the Nature article is: "Fixing the tomato: CRISPR edits correct plant-breeding snafu".

    Contrary to what the titles says, scientists are not "perfecting" the tomato in that they are trying to correct for a combination of two mutations by using CRISPR. The mutations are present because of a previous attempt at cross-breeding a wild tomato species with a commercial one.

  • Scientists Are Using Gene Editing To Create the Perfect Tomato to maximize the mass that can be legally sold as tomato.

    Fixed it for you.

    If that fruit still has any passing resemblance to a real tomato, it will be removed in the next round of gene editing.

  • Oh, wonderful. More tomatoes that are designer-made to generate higher yields for farmers. And just when I thought a supermarket tomato taste had hit rock bottom, they move the goalposts. Obviously, there has been a hue and cry from the grocery consumers of the planet ... they said, as if from one voice:
    "Hey, farmers! I want a tomato that tastes more cardboard. The last one I ate, I could still detect a trace of tomato.

    • What reason do you have for believing that these genetic changes will reduce taste?

    • Become a farmer and grow your own heirloom variety and become the best supplier in the region.

      Fixed it for you and BTW you would make tons of cash in the process if you ran it properly.

  • On the one hand, if they are able to increase production and yields so we are able to feed more people, that would be great.

    On the other hand, if they increase production and yields but a majority of it is wasted because the product expires and there isn't enough financing to ship it to starving countries (kinda like the situation the US is already in), that would be bad.

    On the other other hand if they change the genetics and the plants end up turning everyone into zombies that would be bad

    On the o
  • by TomR teh Pirate ( 1554037 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2017 @04:01PM (#54479511)
    There are interesting things that genes do besides what you think you're doing. For example, the famous Russian experiments to breed aggression towards humans out of captive foxes over several generations has had the curious side effect of the foxs' progeny having more dog-like physical characteristics such as floppy ears and less bushy tails. One looks at tomato plants, thinks about their evolutionary imperative to spread their own genes through fruit creation, and still those plants engage in "excessive" branching. There may an evolutionary reason for this that possibly has nothing to do with spreading fruit and instead makes the plant more resistant to disease, for example. The branching is perhaps just a side effect of disease tolerance. This isn't to say that I'm nervous about this, but when monoculture crops are established you also run other kinds of agricultural risks. The Cavendish banana is apparently in serious trouble due to its inability to resist fungal infections.
  • Scientists Are Using Gene Editing To Create the Perfect Tomato For The Supermarkets.

    Keeps forever because it contains even more water than normal tomatoes. In consequence of that, doesn't taste of much. Cube shaped for more efficient storage.

  • Buyer Beware (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 ) on Wednesday May 24, 2017 @05:08PM (#54480105)
    We already have some very poor tomatoes due to genetic alteration. They may do many things but they don't eat well. Apples are now a disaster. I haven't had a decent apple in years. Some are almost like biting into wood. Few have decent flavor. It is now at the point that I don't buy apples as they simply are great looking but lousy eating. The trouble seems to be that the crops are altered to suit production but not altered to enhance enjoyment. Go in a grocery store and try to find a really tart apple. Good luck.
    • I have the same problem with plums. The last time I bought plums from the supermarket I left them in the fruit bowl for a month waiting for them to ripen. They never did, or rather, that variety was bred to remain hard when ripe so they can stay in transit and on shop shelves longer. They bred the taste out too. I won't buy plums from the supermarket ever again. Luckily we have a really good farmers market here with real fruit.
    • Apples are now a disaster. I haven't had a decent apple in years. Some are almost like biting into wood. Few have decent flavor. .... Go in a grocery store and try to find a really tart apple. Good luck.

      I wouldn't describe a Red Delicious as woody. Mealy would be more accurate. And the flavor is not good. Granny Smith would be woody but they are tart. Red Delicious is the absolute worst apple, bred for long keeping and appearance and probably remains the best seller. There are newer boutique varieties (Honeycrisp?) that I haven't tried due to price but here in the Midwest we get Jonathan and Jonagold which I enjoy.

  • The perfect tomato would be one that would actually grow well in a planter on my deck and would slug any squirrels that come near it. If it can get past those requirements, it should also taste great.

  • by Archfeld ( 6757 ) <> on Wednesday May 24, 2017 @05:33PM (#54480325) Journal

    Commercial tomatoes are crap in general. Hard as a rock, tasteless, and generally mealy textured fruits. The only good tomato is a home grown one, and they do grow well in a wide variety of climates in hundreds of breeds. I live in Yuma Arizona and it is hot as hell here and I can still grow tomatoes almost year round.

    • Tomatoes love the heat, they are from places with longer summers than Arizona. But tomatoes like some humidity too, which can be resolved with frequent watering or a green house depending on your climate.

      I can speak from experience here that tomatoes grow just fine in Michigan too. Warm humid summers there are fine. To extend the growing season a bit, we put wall-o-water around them in the early season to keep the spring frost off the young plants. Once summer hits they take off and it's hard to find enough

  • Just outside the airport in Bologna, Italy, there used to be a huge billboard showing just a tomato resting atop an outstretched hand. The text said:


    I think that's what we've been getting, and I hate it!

  • Calling that the "perfect tomato for your salad" is obviously a huge troll ...
  • I grow them in my Hydroponics bay.

    Leave them alone please. I don't want chemical side affects from your immature understanding...childlike actually of proteins and biological science from all you PhD's out there.

  • What could possibly go wrong? Maybe this []?

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith