You say genetically modified tomato - and I say no

`Touch my tomato and you touch my soul. An Englishman's home is his greenhouse'

SO, WHAT'S all this genetic engineering, then?

I beg your pardon?

This genetic engineering. What's it all about, then?

Oh, you mean, this business of trying to isolate the gene for schizophrenia or homosexuality or baldness, or whatever you disapprove of, and trying to eliminate it?

My goodness! I didn't know tomatoes were ever homosexual or bald...

Ah, tomatoes! You're not talking about people. You're talking about genetic modification of vegetables and crops...

Yes. And it's always tomatoes, for some reason. Nobody ever seems to get into a pickle about apples or oranges, only tomatoes. Why is that?

Probably because more people in Britain try to grow their own tomatoes than any other vegetable, so they see it as a kind of private preserve. Touch my tomato and you touch my soul. An Englishman's home is his greenhouse. We see tomatoes as very British - even though they come from abroad.

From Italy, you mean?

No, no, no. They went to Italy. But they originally came from South America, from the Andes. Where potatoes also came from.

Good heavens. So, before 1492 European culture survived entirely without the help of spuds or tomatoes?

Yes.

Extraordinary.

Not so extraordinary as the fact that in the years since 1492 the Italians have used the tomato to create a wonderful national cuisine, and the Americans have used it to create nothing but ketchup.

And it is these very same Americans who now want to alter the tomato?

I think so.

And why do they want to alter tomatoes genetically?

To make them last longer. To resist disease. To make them redder and shinier and bigger. All the things that supermarkets like. If they could genetically alter them to make them square and easier to pack, they would.

And tastier, too, and cheaper presumably?

No. Supermarkets aren't interested in making things tastier. Or even cheaper.

So how do supermarkets want to change things?

By making them more convenient. What appeals to a supermarket is a stack of tomatoes lying very near a stack of washing powders and not far from the crisps and biscuits.

Could a tomato be genetically engineered to be near washing powders and crisps?

Not yet.

Could a customer be genetically altered to prefer tomatoes in supermarkets?

No. He doesn't have to be. It is already done through cultural conditioning. A customer is gradually led to believe over the years that tomatoes in supermarkets are cheaper, better and tastier than what you get in the local shop.

And are they?

Of course not. They don't have to be. As long as the customer thinks they are, it doesn't matter whether they actually are or not.

So you're against genetic engineering?

Not necessarily. I'm just against supermarket philosophy. I agree with TV chef Anthony Worrall Thompson, who urged supermarkets to stop filling their shelves with new products that nobody wants, like disgusting lemon- flavoured creams in aerosols, and give more space to fresh food. I agree with him and I disagree with Moira Hilliam.

Who is Moira Hilliam?

She is a market intelligence manager for new food products who says, in to Tuesday's Evening Standard: "Mr Worrall Thompson is entitled to his opinion, but it is worth noting that a lot of products that started out as being weird and wonderful are now part of the mainstream. Yoghurt, Pot Noodles, soya sauce and even curry all started as new products once..."

Hold on, hold on! I'll give her Pot Noodles, and she's welcome, but is she saying that yoghurt and curry and soya sauce started life as a product? A spokesperson for supermarkets is unaware that all these things were in existence hundreds of years before supermarkets arrived? In the form of real food?

She isn't a spokesperson. She is a market intelligence officer.

Do you think a supermarket spokesperson can ever be genetically modified to acquire super-intelligence?

Not in our lifetime, I fear.

(IF YOU want to know more, send for our leaflet, "OK, I May Go and Spend a Fortune Once a Week at Sainsbury's Or Tesco, But That Doesn't Mean I Approve of What I'm Doing".)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee