Would You Eat Genetically Engineered Plums?

Most processed foods already contain genetically-engineered corn or soy. Some scientists are making the controversial case for GE fresh fruits.

In West Virginia, scientists have planted an orchard full of sweet, purple-black HoneySweet plums. They're one of only two transgenic fruit trees approved by the USDA. While you won't find these fruits on the market yet, breeders think the genetically modified species could be a potential solution for fighting the emerging, invasive plum pox virus. Alisa Opar writes in this month's Audubon Magazine:

As with its predecessors, HoneySweet has raised environmental red flags [PDF]. The transgenic pollen could be harmful to wild pollinators or possibly pollinate non-GE trees. “My activist friends might not like to hear me say this, but it’s not something I’d lose sleep over,” says Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit alliance of more than 250,000 citizens and researchers. “Yes, there are risks. But I’m more concerned about other GE crops in the pipeline.”


Since the vast majority of processed foods contain genetically modified corn and soy, often varieties that are patented and stacked with genes to resist pesticide applications, the debate over biotechnology's promise needs the kind of nuance Opar's excellent story provides. After all, we can't expect the future of food to be drawn from absolutes.

Photo: Scott Bauer/USDA.