QIt seems that all advances have been in improving qualities like storage and disease resistance, but is there any work being done to improve the taste?

It seems that all advances have been in improving qualities like storage and disease resistance, but is there any work being done to improve the taste?

AExpert Answer

We are learning a lot about the genes associated with sensory quality, and genetic engineering is likely a great way to rapidly re-introduce them to fruits and vegetables.  Where did they go?  Over the past 50 years plant breeding prioritized production traits, meaning fruit size, yield, disease resistance and shipping quality.  Flavors and aromas were simply graded as acceptable or not. 

 

Today we can use marker assisted breeding to bring back those flavors without genetic engineering.  That's being done all over the world.   The process is slow, especially in tree crops.

 

While we can make some predictions about how genetic engineering could help the process, deregulation is long and expensive, so it is not an attractive option.  Most industries would not be willing to foot that bill, especially in light of unknown consumer acceptance. 

 

For now, we're stuck with traditional breeding for enhanced flavors and aromas.  If we can get more people to consume improved varieties, it will help our farmers and the general health of our nation and planet.  

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