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August 21, 2008

Strawberry-flavored Banana?

Biochemists Manipulate Fruit Flavor Enzymes

Would you like a lemony watermelon? How about a strawberry-flavored banana? Biochemists at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston say the day may be coming when scientists will be able to fine tune enzymes responsible for flavors in fruits and vegetables. In addition, it could lead to environmentally-friendly pest control.

UT Medical School Assistant Professor C.S. Raman, Ph.D., and his colleagues have reported that they were able to manipulate flavor enzymes found in a popular plant model by genetic means. The enzymes produce jasmonate (responsible for the unique scent of jasmine flowers) and green leaf volatiles (GLV) respectively. GLVs confer characteristic aromas to fruits and vegetables.

Green leaf volatiles and jasmonates emitted by plants also serve to ward off predators. “Mind you plants can’t run away from bugs and other pests. They need to deal with them. One of the things they do is to release volatile substances into the air so as to attract predators of the bugs,” Raman said.

“Genetic engineering/modification (GM) of green leaf volatile production holds significant potential towards formulating environmentally friendly pest-control strategies. [B]It also has important implications for manipulating food flavor[/B],” said Raman, the senior author.

Aside from the traditional fears of Genetic Modification, I see this as being very disastrous. As it is, “Scientists” can seem to get flavors right in yogurt, sports drinks and hand lotion (OK, that last one was smell, but still…), what makes us think they can get this right? So while it would be great if brussel sprouts tasted like apples, I’d hate it if everything tasted like apples.

But wait, why would everything have to taste like apples? (you asked). Simple, as new flavors are introduced, food producers would all start to modify their flavors to compete in the global marketplace. People will buy the best tasting food at the lowest price. So they may pay more for an apple-flavored artichoke, they will still buy the cheapest one on the shelf. The best way to compete is to have lower prices than the other guy and that means volume. Food producers would inevitable make everything taste like the same five things because that’s how competition works. Lower costs by improved efficiency by limiting choice.

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1 comment

  • At 11:29 am on August 22, 2008, Ani commented:

    Interesting. Have you seen M. Night Shyamalan’s movie The Happening?

    [Reply]

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