It's a bird, it's a plane, it's actually a super banana. Genetically modified fruit may soon appear in a store near you, according to new research published in Cell Press.
Before you throw your hands up in a rage, consider the science: Unlike the standard genetically modified organisms (GMOs) food leaders and consumers are fighting tirelessly to eliminate, these fruits wouldn't require foreign genomes. Instead, small "edits" (reffered to as genetically edited organisms or GEOs) would be made via "tools" like restrictive enzymes — enzymes that cut DNA strands at a specific sequence — to increase the fruit's natural ingredients.
So a super banana would have a higher dose of vitamin A. It also wouldn't brown as quickly. High doses of healthy vitamins, like A, improve a person's health and cell growth. Beto-carotene, a second type of A, is rich in antioxidants, which, according to the National Institutes of Health, is used in its own right to decrease asthma symptoms and prevent certain cancers.
"The simple avoidance of introducing foreign genes makes genetically edited crops more 'natural' than transgenic crops obtained by inserting foreign genes," Chidananda Nagamangala Kanchiswamy, study author of the Istituto Agrario San Michele in Italy, said in a press release.
Kanchiswamy goes as far to say that eliminating foreign genomes would deem super bananas and the like "nongenetically modified." "We would like people to understand that crop breeding through biotechnology is not restricted only to GMOs," Kanchiswamy said. "Transfer of foreign genes was the first step to improve our crops, but GEOs will surge as a 'natural' strategy to use biotechnology for a sustainable agricultural future."
Biotechnologists frequently report that without some sort of genetic modifcation, the world's growing food needs could not be met. GEOs are so far seen as a safe alternative to full-on GMOs (though it's worth noting GMOs have yet to be proven they're harmful to humans).
Similarly, genome-editing tools are believed to make a significant improvement on plant biotechnology. One Finnish study finds biotechnology production is both cost-effective and environment-friendly.
This is an advance in food culture, for sure, but bananas are already considerd a super fruit. So are acai berries, most other berries, grapes, kiwi, oranges, pomegranates, avocado (yep, it's a fruit), and papayas. Fruit salad, anyone?
Source: Kanchiswamy C, Sargent D, Velasco R, Maffei M, Malnoy M. Looking forward to genetically edited fruit crops. Trends in Biotechnology. 2014.