Monsanto Is Going Organic in a Quest for the Perfect Veggie

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New Monsanto vegetables are sweet, crunchy, and nutritious, with none of the ick factor “Frankenstein foods”. Nicholas Cope

In a basement room with no windows decorated with photos of farmers holding freshly harvested vegetables, three executives of Monsanto dress-polo-shirt-and-pants, all men, wait for a special lunch. A server arrives and takes charge of each of caprese salad-tomato-like, mozzarella, basil, lettuce, and one executive, David Stark, rolls his chair forward, raises dramatically fork and skewers a sheet. He takes a big bite showy. The other two men, Robb Fraley and Kenny Avery, also tuck in. The room is filled with strong, intent, wet chewing sounds.

Eventually, Stark looks up. “Nice crunchy texture that people like, and a very good taste,” he says.

“Probably better than what comes out of Schnucks” Fraley answered. He’s talking about a chain of local supermarkets St. Louis, where it is based Monsanto. Avery seems happy, he just keeps eating.

The men poke, prod, and chewing more vigorously next course: salmon with a seasoning of red, yellow pepper, and orange and a side of broccoli. “Lettuce is my favorite,” says Stark later. Fraley pepper concludes that “changes the game if you think about fresh produce.”

Changing farming game is what makes Monsanto. The company, whose name is synonymous with big Ag has revolutionized the way we grow food, for better or for worse. Activists insulted by such practices mustache-twirling like suing farmers who grow back or licensed seed filling the world of super weeds resistant to Roundup. Then there is the reputation-despised by some of Monsanto held by others, as the largest provider of genetically modified crop commodities such as corn and soybeans edited with DNA from another location, nature designed to have qualities not just think .

So it’s not particularly surprising that the company is introducing new strains of familiar food crops, Monsanto invented and endowed by their Creator with powers and abilities beyond what you would normally see in the produce section. The lettuce is sweet and crunchy romaine and has the quality of fresh iceberg stay. Chilies come in miniature sizes, in one portion to reduce leftovers. Broccoli has three times the normal amount of glucoraphanin, a compound that helps increase the levels of antioxidants. Stark Department, division of world trade, came with them.

“Grocery stores are looking for in the produce aisle for something that appears, feels different,” says Avery. “And consumers are looking for the same thing.” If the team is good, they will know very soon. Frescada lettuce, peppers BellaFina-broccoli and cheerful brands Beneforté trademark of a subsidiary all-but-anonymous calls Monsanto-Seminis being launched in supermarkets in the U.S..

But here’s the twist: lettuce, peppers and broccoli-and a melon and onion, with a watermelon before following-are not genetically modified at all. Monsanto created all these vegetables using good old-fashioned crossbreeding, the same technology that farmers have been using to optimize crops for millennia. That does not mean they are low-tech, exactly. Stark Division is leveraging scientific knowledge accumulated Monsanto to create vegetables that have all the benefits of genetically modified organisms, none of the factors Frankenfoods ick.

And that’s a serious business advantage. Despite a huge lack of evidence that crops genetically modified food harmful to human health, consumers have shown a remarkable resistance to buying GM products (even as they happily consume products derived from commodity crops genetically) modified. Stores like Whole Foods are planning to add disclosures GMO labels in a few years. State laws may require even more soon

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Nicholas Cope

Beneforté
(Broccoli)
Hurled
Fall 2010
Availability
Throughout the year
Feature
Compared with standard broccoli, containing up to three times the amount of glucoraphanin, a compound that increases the levels of antioxidants
Method
Crossing commercial broccoli with a wild strain growth in southern Italy
Grown Region
Arizona, California, Mexico
Price
$ 2.50 per pound

However, these requirements do not apply to new Superveggies Monsanto. They may have been born in a laboratory, but technically are about as natural as you get at a farmers market. Keep away from pesticides and transport within 100 miles and can be called organic and LOCAVORE too.

John Francis Queeny Monsanto Chemical Works formed in 1901, mainly to produce the artificial sweetener saccharin. Monsanto was the family name Queeny wife, Olga. It was a good time for chemical companies. By the 1920s, Monsanto had expanded into sulfuric acid and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a refrigerant used in transformers and electric motors early, now more famous as a harmful environmental pollutant. The company moved to plastics and synthetic fabrics, and by the 1960s it had sprouted a division to create herbicides, including the Vietnam era defoliant Agent Orange. A decade later, Monsanto invented Roundup, a herbicide glyphosate that farmers could apply to reduce excessive growth between crops, increasing productivity. In early 1990, the company turned its scientific knowledge to agriculture, working on new varieties of crops that resist the effects of the signing of the herbicide.

However, the development of new varieties of plants is nothing new. On the contrary, in plants of determining optimizing performance, flavor and other qualities define the earliest human civilizations. But despite the millennia as some proto-farmer first tried, successfully altering plants has been a game of roulette population. Basically, farmers bred a plant having a trait like other plants that they like. Seeds and hope that union of the features still appear in later generations were then planted.

They are working with a biologist would call qualities that, together, the phenotype. But phenotype is the manifestation of the genotype, the genes of those traits. The roulettelike complications arise because some genes are dominant and others are recessive. Taking a tree with sweet fruit and cross it with one that is not necessarily a large fruit tree with sweets, fruit gets larger. You can get the opposite or most vulnerable to the disease, or one that requires a lot of water, tree and so on. It’s a guessing game of trial and error that requires much time and patience earth.

The idea behind genetic modification is to accelerate all that up to analyze the genes of a species, germplasm and manipulate to your liking. This is what the last three decades of plant biology have achieved and continue to improve. Monsanto became a pioneer in the field when you set out to create Roundup-resistant crops. Stark joined this effort in 1989, when he was a postdoc molecular biology. He was experimenting with the then new science of transgenics.

Monsanto focuses on crops genetically modified raw materials, but the most exciting work was the creation of completely new vehicles for consumers. For example, Calgene, a small team of biotechnology in Davis, California, was the construction of a tomato Flavr Savr he called. Conventional tomatoes were harvested while green, when they are strong enough to withstand shipping, and then gassed with ethylene to their destination to start ripening. Flavr Savr but was designed to release under a so-called enzyme polygalacturonase pectin in the cell walls do not decompose as soon after harvest. The result was a tomato that farmers could choose and middle boat.

In the mid 1990s, Monsanto bought Calgene and Stark reassigned, moving from Roundup to head a research project that almost accidentally discovered how to engineer flavor in products. Began playing with genes that affect the production of ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase, an enzyme correlated with the highest levels of starch and glycogen in tomatoes and potatoes. Translation: more viscous ketchup and french fry that could shed less water when cooking, keeping unabsorbed fat mass. And he did. “The texture was good,” says Stark. “They were sharper and tasted more like a potato.”

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BellaFina
(Pepper)
Hurled
Fall 2011
Availability
Throughout the year
Feature
A regular size third peppers when mini-ripe
minimize waste and allows flexibility when cooking
Method
Selectively breeding plants and smaller small peppers
Adult Region
California, Florida, North Carolina
Price
$ 1.50 per bag three pepper

They never made it to market. Apart from consumer backlash, EPA believes that StarLink corn, a new strain of biotechnology from another company, unfit for human consumption due to their potential to cause allergic reactions. Another variety of corn genetically modded seemed kill monarch butterflies. Large food conglomerates including Heinz and Mcdonald-you may recognize their GM ingredients abandoned-famous tomato products and potatoes, and some European countries have refused to grow or import. Toss in the fact that the costs of the Flavr Savr production proved too high and it’s easy to see why Monsanto Stark closed the division in 2001. Farms growing large scale soy or cotton, or maize for animal feed or corn syrup-they were willing to plant GM crops that could withstand large doses of herbicide. But the rest of the aisle was a no-go.

In addition, genetically modified food crops proved to be inefficient and costly. Stark believes that the addition of a new gene is about 10 years and $ 100 million to move from a product concept to regulatory approval. And the insertion of genes one at a not necessarily produce the types of features that are based on the interactions of the various genes. Long before his vegetable business was kaput, Monsanto knew I could not genetically engineer your way to a better product, but had to raise large vegetables to begin with. As Stark phrases for the company mantra: “The best genetics in the world germplasm no dog shit is solved.”

What do you do? Crossing. Stark had an advantage in this case: In the process of learning to perform chemical engineering and pest resistance in corn, Monsanto researchers have learned to read and understand plant genomes-to tell the difference between shit germplasm Dog and gold. And had an ingenious technology that allowed them to predict whether a given cross yield traits they wanted.

The key was a technique called genetic tagging. Parts of a genome that may be associated with a given trait is assigned, even if that trait arises from multiple genes working in concert. Researchers identified and crossed with the features they like and then run a million samples of hybrids only leaf pieces, actually through a machine that can read more than 200,000 samples per week and map all the genes in plants a particular region of the plant chromosomes.

 Nicholas Cope

Melorange
(Melon)
Hurled
Winter 2011
Availability
December to April
Feature
Tastes of up to 30 percent sweeter
melon
grown in winter
Method
Crossing cantaloupe melons and European heritage with a gene for a fruity and floral scent
Grown Region
Arizona, Central America
Price
$ 3 per melon

They had more toys too. In 2006, Monsanto developed a machine called a chipper seed ordering and diverse soybean germplasm shaves quickly from seed. The seed chipper allows researchers to explore small genetic variations, only a single nucleotide, to find out whether they will result in plants with the features they want, without having to take the time to leave a seed grows into a plant. Monsanto computer models can actually predict patterns of inheritance, which means they can say they wanted features will be successfully transmitted. It is sex without a calf, in silico plant. In the real world, the odds stacking 20 different features in one plant are one in 2 billion. In nature, you can take a millennium. Monsanto can do in a few years.

And all this happens without any genetic engineering. No one gene is inserted into a single genome. (One could, and indeed sometimes they do, look at their cross by designing a plant as a sort of beta test. But those who have no intention of leaving the laboratory.) Stark and his colleagues realized that They could use these technologies to identify a cross that would have very desirable traits and grow as they wanted. And it could actually charge more for him all the benefits of a GMO with any of the stigmata. “We had the tools the first time in plants,” says Stark.

Also in 2005, Monsanto purchased the seed company in the world, larger Seminis vegetable. Think of it as a wholesale supplier of germplasm. It turned Seminis came another advantage: something in the pipeline that Stark could become the first product testing division. A decade earlier, swashbuckling botanists had discovered in the limestone cliffs of Western Sicily a strain of Brassica villosa, ancestor of modern broccoli. With a gene called MYB28, this Atavist weeds produce high levels of glucoraphanin. Stark’s team raised more improvements for the greater antioxidant compound in broccoli plant good old more familiar look.

In 2010 Monsanto began test marketing the new crop, calling Beneforté. The strategy is coming together: improved quality vegetables for a buyer elite. Beneforté broccoli came in a bag of ready-to-cook florets marked so convenient! With a bar graph telegraphing how their antioxidant levels stacked against regular broccoli and cauliflower. It was sold, but the company’s researchers knew that vegetables future should a compelling hook. Everyone already knows you’re supposed to eat your broccoli.

 Nicholas Cope

EverMild
(Onion)
Hurled
Fall 2010
Availability
September to March
Feature
Soft and sweet, less tear-inducing
Method
Selection of individual plants that have lower levels of pyruvate, which affects the acrimony and tear factor
Adult Region
Pacific Northwest
Price
$ 0.70 to $ 2 per pound

Stark group had a final angle: flavor. In products, flavor comes from a combination of color, texture, flavor (ie, generally, the lack of sweetness or bitterness), and aroma. But the traits that create these variables are complicated and sometimes not obvious.

For example, Monsanto has created an onion-the-EverMild with reduced levels of a chemical called tear factor, the things that make you mourn. That was not too hard. However, making a sweet version of a winter melon took more effort. Stark’s team first found the genes that helped keep a French melon spoilage after harvest. Through crossbreeding, learned to maintain the activated genes. Now farmers can harvest ripe melon, ripe and maintained with full aroma. But researchers do not stop there, they also made sure the fruit had the gene citron, a molecule associated with fruit and floral aromas. They called the final product Melorange.

Discovering these relationships takes place in a sensory laboratory and sophisticated genetic perched amid hundreds of acres of experimental culture in the rural outskirts, scorched by the sun Woodland, an agricultural town in California ag belt. White-coated scientists flit amid tubs full of fruits and vegetables in a laboratory, probing with the intensity of forensic investigators. Penetrometers measure squishiness. Instruments called Brix meter track in sugar. Spectrographs Gas, liquid chromatographs, and players MRI isolate specific aromatic molecules and their concentrations.

Finally experimental volunteers eat food and give feedback. In a tasting session, sensory scientist Lee-Ming Chow goes five glasses plastic boxes filled with bite-size melon harvested and brought in from outside of a store, a dozen melon producers and distributors. Each cup is labeled with a three digit code. Score sheets have two columns: “Sweet / savory” and “juicy”.

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Frescada
(Lettuce)
Hurled
Spring 2012
Availability
Throughout the year
Feature
Crisp leaves with a longer shelf life, 146 percent more folic acid and 74 percent more vitamin C than iceberg lettuce ordinary
Method
Across the iceberg lettuce with romaine lettuce
Adult Region
Arizona, California
Price
$ 2.25 to $ 2.50 per pound

After sampling each batch and recording their evaluations, participants punch their scores on the devices that connect to the laptop from Lee, which traces the general feeling of the room on a screen along a grid of four quadrants that range from low to high on a shaft flavor and juiciness low to high on the other. None of melons managed to break the top corner of the quadrant to the right slot Monsanto hopes to fill: a sweet, juicy, crowd-pleasing melon.

In the adjacent fields a few hours later, Monsanto breeders Jeff Mills and Greg Tolla perform other taste test. You have to open a classic slice of melon and Melorange your own for comparison. Tolla Assessment of the conventional variety is scathing. “It is a taste more like a carrot,” he says. Mills agrees: “It is firm it’s sweet, but that’s all it is flat…” Volume two bites too. Compared to the standard melon, supercharged Melorange know, is vibrant, fruity, and ultrasweet. I want seconds. “That’s the shtick,” says Mills.

Of course, the sweetest fruit is not necessarily better fruit, and perhaps not surprising that Monsanto’s critics are convinced that this drive towards non-GM products represent good corporate citizenship. They wonder if these new fruits and vegetables actually be as healthy as their counterparts untweaked. In 2013, for example, consumer researchers prototyped features its Summer Watermelon Slice, designed with a applelike texture (to reduce the phenomenon of watermelon juice dripping-down-your-chin has healed many feared childhoods). But the most dense texture makes it less sweet taste. So the team is raising Stark at a higher sugar content.

Is that unhealthy? Nobody really knows, but it is true that the law does not require Monsanto to account for the possible long-term effects. (The FDA considers all without additives conventionally bred products to be safe.) No one has tinkered with the levels of sugar in the way Monsanto is trying, is essentially an experiment, says Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist and president of the Institute for Responsible Nutrition. ‘The only result that matters is profit. ”

Monsanto, of course, denies that accusation. Ask fruit taste better and more people will eat more of it. “That’s good for society and, let’s face it, good for business,” says Stark.

Monsanto is still Monsanto. The company enforces strict contracts to farmers to buy their seeds produce. As with Roundup Ready soybeans, Monsanto prohibits seeds regrow from the new crops. The company maintains exclusion clauses with farmers if the crops do not meet the standards of firmness, sweetness, and strict quality assurance controls odor-sloping. “The goal is to get products recognized by consumer confidence, and purchased,” says Stark. “That’s what I really want. Want to grow sales.”

But he avoids talking about the longer-term agenda of the company. “I’m not sure I ever really planned what kind of market share that we will,” he says. The vegetable division cleared $ 821 million in revenue in 2013, an area of ​​significant potential growth for a business of $ 14 billion a year that relies heavily on revenue from GM corn and soybeans. More revealing is the steady stream of company acquisitions, suggesting a continued commitment to the produce aisle. It owns a greenhouse in the mountains of Guatemala, where the warm, dry air allows three or four cycles of growth a year, ideal for research. In 2008 Monsanto bought De Ruiter, one of the seed companies largest greenhouse in the world, and in 2013 collected Climate Corporation, a big-time data that can provide intelligence on what field you might need to survive traits global warming in a given region. Mark Gulley, an analyst at BGC Financial, said that the company is following the approach of “virtuous cycle” but spends heavily on marketing and poured much of the profits back into R & D.

The new crops are coming. In 2012 Monsanto debuted Broccoli Performance Series, a line that is conventionally improved higher, allowing cheaper, faster mechanical harvesting compared to manual harvesting. Breeders are also growing watermelons patterns with green skin and white striped familiar to American consumers, but also the tiger variety favored in Spain and oval jade version loved by Australians. “It’s supposed to remind you where you grew up,” says Mills, melon breeder Monsanto. That suggests that the division plans to be a player in the trillion dollar global market products.

Meanwhile, Stark hopes that when Monsanto’s affiliation with some of their best sellers becomes more widely known, the company could regain some confidence. ‘No silver bullet reputation, but it helps, “he says. In that basement room at the headquarters of Monsanto, he waxes rhapsodic over lettuce long after you’ve cleaned your plate. During a recent trip to Holland, where Frescada is gaining popularity, Stark saw people peeling leaves directly from the heads without dressing and eating, as an extra-large fries. “People ate it as an appetizer, which was not the intention, but …” Stark fades and looks around the room. Your napkin is still in his lap. He is relishing the potential.

Source: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2014/01/new-monsanto-vegetables/

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