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Does the GM process affect the look or taste of the crop in any way?

Submitted by: Sarah Pedrotty


Expert response from Jennifer Schmidt

Maryland Farmer and Registered Dietician

Wednesday, 04/04/2018 17:44

That’s a great question because so many people ‘expect’ there to be a difference and taste is purely a subjective assessment. So the answer is – it depends.

Examples when the “look” would be different:

  1. Golden Rice: his rice has been engineered to be higher in Beta-carotene, using a gene from maize/corn, to help reduce the incidence of Vitamin A deficiency in developing countries whose Vitamin A content in the diet is so low, that results in blindness, especially in children. Its “looks” different from traditional rice because it is yellow or “golden” and not white. I have not eaten any Golden Rice so I can’t speak to whether it tastes different or not.
  2. Rainbow Papaya: The papaya industry in Hawaii was devastated by papaya ringspot virus until “Rainbow papaya” was developed. The Rainbow papaya “looks” healthy because it’s not infected with the virus so there are no defects or “rings” on the outer skin. Nonresistant papaya is infected with the virus and its outer skin is pockmarked with rings. Over time, the virus stunts the trees and causes them to decline, produce less fruit, and eventually die. So in this instance, you can tell Hawaiian papayas apart on whether or not they show signs of ringspot on the fruit’s outer skin. Transgenic Rainbow papaya skin will not have spots, and the non-transgenic varieties will show the signs of ringspot infection on the skin. I have eaten Rainbow papaya and it’s delicious. (Note: the Rainbow variety is specific to Hawaii so may not be the variety of papaya sold in your local grocery store if it comes from other papaya growing regions of the world).

Examples of where it looks and tastes the same:

  1. Arctic Apples: I got to sample half dozen Artic apples – granny smith to be exact - and did a side by side comparison of both taste and browning. I did not detect any difference in taste between Artic apple and conventional apple and visually, they were the same as well.
  2. Sweet Corn: I have eaten both Bt sweet corn and conventional sweet corn and did not detect any different in looks or taste.

Examples I cannot answer:

  1. Soybeans: I grow a soybean that is both high oleic and Roundup ready however these soybeans are for the poultry industry and while they have a nice nutty taste, they are feed grade soybeans and aren’t meant for food production. I also grow conventional/non-GMO tofu soybeans. They also taste similarly nutty when sampled raw but they have to be processed into tofu which is a different comparison altogether.  So this example even though they’re both soybeans, their end use is completely different and a side by side comparison not valid.
  2. Feed Corn: I grew up calling this “cow corn” and we knew not to eat it because it’s for cows (or sheep or chickens etc...) It’s starchy and hard when ripe. We have grown both conventional, organic and “GMO” field corn. They all look the same however I cannot speak to taste because in my imagination if the corn was cooked down and soften, would be like eating wall paper paste.