Once upon a time fruits and vegetables, so ancient and different that we would not recognize them compared to the current ones.
What’s happened? If our ancestors were here among us now, they would probably be confused finding that their foods doesn’t exist anymore. That’s because humans, since the birth of agriculture about 12,000 years ago, started to change them, trying to match their needs, taste and the market, (bigger, tastier, juicer and more resistent to disease).
Starting with crossbreeding or planting seeds at different times of the year, humans successfully changed their crops and still continue applying new techniques using the DNA transfer. They discovered how to manipulate the food genetically during 1980s, until 1994 when the first one was available to consumers: the Flavr Savr tomato developed by Calgene, a biotech research firm in California.
Researches say that we altered our crops so much that they would’t be able to survive in the wild without human care (according to Bruce Chasey, executive associate director of the Biotechnology Center at the University of Illinois).
But how were they before our intervention? What did our ancestors eat when they gladly let mother nature feed them? In this article we will show you the before and after human manipulation photo gallery.
WATERMELON – Wild:
This painting was created between 1645 and 1672 and shows swirly shapes in the center that is marked off in six separate sections. Humans have designed watermelons to have the red, fleshy center.
WATERMELON – Modern:
Researchers double the number of chromosomes in traditional melons by adding the chemical colchicine.
BANANA – Wild:
The first bananas may have been cultivated some 7,000 years ago and as early as 10,000 in what is now Papua New Guinea. Found to grow in Asia, the ancient version of our banana is the Musa acuminate, a plant that had small okra looking pods.
BANANA – Modern:
What we buy and eat now may be a full blown hybrid, but it is tastier and more nutrient than it was in the past.
EGGPLANT – Wild:
If we would jump back to the past we would not recognize them at all: they had different shades and sizes such as white, azure, purple and yellow. In addition, some of the earliest ones had spines in the area where their stem connects to the flower.
EGGPLANT – Modern:
After crossbreeding, the spines are no long part of the egg plant and the orange like shade disappeared. The oblong purple vegetable is what you can find in most grocery stores nowadays.
CARROT – Wild:
It was found in Persia and Asia Minor around the 10th century and was purple or white with a root-like structure. About 5,000 years ago it arrived in Europe and still grows today in temperate regions.
CARROT – Modern:
Thanks to human manipulation started in the 1900s, carrots were transformed from golden balls into the long orange vegetables we know today.
CORN – Wild:
Western civilization started to know corn in 1492 when Columbus’s men discovered it in Cuba. But it was already there much longer before. The wild maize (or corn) has been a staple for human agriculture and has been altered since the beginning of its time. Ancient Mexican farmers began to domesticate it when they started to pink kernels to plants and noticed that not all of them were the same.
CORN – Modern:
Thanks to the human modification, we changed the types and amounts of starch produced, where it can be grown, and the length, size and shape of the entire vegetable. Further more, it raised the output by 20 to 30 percent (a bless for starving people).
PEACH – Wild:
Ancient Chinese, who domesticated them first around 4,000 BC, reported they tasted very earthy and salty. They were only 25 mm in size and had a little flesh to chomp on – just about 64% was edible.
PEACH – Modern:
The selective breeding allowed to produce the same fruit but 64 times bigger, 27% juicer and 4% sweeter.
All this sounds good for humans, so why are people worried about genetically modified foods? Three reasons have been advanced:
1. They can trigger an allergy in humans because some of the genes used during the process may have been taken from other foods that people are allergic to and they have no way of knowing about it.
2. Other organisms in the ecosystem could be harmed. By consequence, this can lead to a lower level of biodiversity.
3. People are afraid of new diseases that may emerge, since some genetically modified foods use bacteria and virus.
Do you prefer the wild ancient foods or the modern ones? What do you know about modified foods? Do you think they are safe?