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The 'tomato-ishy' cash crop 

LowDown

Warning: Agribusiness is in the lab again, molesting the "molecular machineries" of Mother Nature's tomatoes.

Actually, it's the already-machined, industrial tomato that lab techs are re-tinkering. It seems that big-produce peddlers have discovered that their red, perfectly round, tomato-looking fruits are so flavorless as to constitute consumer fraud.

Tomato lovers have known this for years, but industry didn't care, for supermarket chains offered no choice to shoppers. Buy it and weep.

Indeed, the bland orb was specifically manufactured by land-grant university geneticists to satisfy industry, not consumers.

Profiteering middlemen wanted to grow the crop on huge corporate farms, mechanically harvest it, artificially ripen it, and ship it thousands of miles to markets without rotting.

As author Susan DeMarco learned while researching

Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times in 1972, taste was not even an afterthought. When she pointed out to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's research director that the reconstructed fruit lacked flavor, he considered that irrelevant:

"Your children will never know the difference," he smirked.

But, of course, the children did — they're the ones who've created today's alternative system of sustainably grown, untampered-with, locally marketed tomatoes, taking sales away from the industrial profiteers.

So, has the agribusiness-industrial complex learned that high-tech is not always better?

Get real!

Actually, they're getting more unreal. A team of tomato tinkerers is now in the University of Florida's labs trying to sniff out "flavor volatiles" in real tomatoes, extract a few, and insert them into industry's manufactured creation to make it taste somewhat tomato-ishy.

Your tax dollars at work, patching one fraud with another to benefit agribusiness giants.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.

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