|Cotton Candy Grapes and Other Altered Foods|
|By GILLIAN MOHNEY (@gillianmohney)||Aug 3, 2013, 2:59 PM|
Science has always impacted the way we grow and produce food, but now "designer" fruits, vegetables and even fish are coming to our table.
Whether it's been genetically modified, cross-pollinated or created out of some other scientific process, scientists are aiming to create food even better than mother nature.
But better doesn't always mean tastier: Some scientists want to vaccinate people through foods and others want to breed fish that grow larger faster. To see what's possible, we've taken a look at five different designer foods to see what might end up on the menu.
If you've got a sweet tooth, but don't want to be unhealthy you can always try "cotton candy" grapes. It took farmers from the Grapery company 12 years of hard work and hand pollination to develop the treat. By creating the sweet snack that has a higher sugar content than other grapes, their goal is to replace other common sugary snacks such as chocolate bars.
And if you're not a fan of cotton candy, the Grapery is also working on other flavors that will taste like lollipops or gummi bears.
More and more farmers are creating fruit hybrids that take the best aspects of two different fruits and put them into one delicious product.
Floyd Zaiger of Zaiger's Genetics has patented more than 200 new fruits through traditional cross breeding. But growing a perfect Pluot, a blend of plum and apricot, can be complicated and take decades of cross breeding.
They also have to be hearty to survive ever-changing growing conditions.
"A lot of the conditions, the climatic conditions, are changing throughout the world as we have global warming," Zaiger says. "Varieties have to be more adaptable."
If you're one of those people who has ever suffered an itchy tongue after eating an apple, European scientists are working on creating an apple just for you.
In 2010 the ITSAFRUIT collective in Europe worked to create apples that would have fewer allergens by silencing genes within the plant.
Currently the plants are growing at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, where researchers will continue to analyze any fruit that develops.
"Most genetically modified foods are catered to the needs of farmers. That's not something that consumers appreciate," said Dr. René Smulders, an associate editor of the Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology and a manager at Wageningen University. "With these apples you would clearly see an advantage to your health."
Since it takes five years for an apple tree to flower, Smulders warns that the perfect anti-allergy apple is quite a few years away from mass production.
It's not only fruits and vegetables that are being "designed," a new genetically modified salmon is awaiting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Created by the Massachusetts biotech company AquaBount, the AquaAdvantage Salmon is an Atlantic salmon with a Pacific salmon gene that makes the fish grow faster. An added eel gene makes the fish grow year round.
The fact that fish is genetically modified has worried some, but health experts say it's unlikely to be dangerous to consumers as long as it meets FDA approval.
"The hard science part is that we have been creating [animals] using genes and natural selection for years to genetically predict what kinds of food animals, and recreational animals and such we have on our planet," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.
Charles Arntzen, a plant biologist at the Arizona State University Biodesign Institute, has been working to develop fruits and vegetables that could help vaccinate children from common and deadly diseases such as hepatitis B, cholera, and certain types of diarrhea.
Arntzen has experimented with develping tobacco and potatoes with that provoke an immune response in a consumer with limited success in studies. Arntzen says that subjects in limited trials had the correct immune response, but subjects had to eat a large amount of raw potatoes. It's not exactly appetizing, but cooking the potatoes would break down the proteins that provoke the immune response.
But if Arntzen is able to create a plant that can provoke the desired immune response, he envisions shipping seedlings across the world so the plants can be harvested in developing countries as part of a local pharmaceutical operation.