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Tasteless Tomatoes

July 3, 2012

Scientists discover the biochemistry behind tasteless supermarket tomatoes.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Tasteless tomatoes…  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you’ve ever bitten into a succulent, homegrown tomato, you’ve probably wondered why the ones from the supermarket are so tasteless by comparison. Now, researchers have discovered that breeding for evenly ripening tomatoes – which look good on store shelves – has inadvertently drained them of their flavor. UC Davis biochemist Ann Powell led the study. She says tomatoes normally produce a protein called GLK2, which helps the plant turn energy from the sun into sugars. These sugars are part of what make the fruit taste sweet and flavorful. But a mutation in the gene that codes for GLK2 makes tomatoes ripen evenly. So as large-scale tomato growers have selected for more uniformity over the past 70 years or so, they’ve also unknowingly selected against taste.

ANN POWELL (UC Davis):

It was a perfectly legitimate way to improve production.  Nobody really expected that part of it.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

(Image Courtesy of University of California, Davis)