It’s not your imagination, brussels sprouts do taste better. How gene editing is changing how we grow and eat food
As a kid, I refused to eat vegetables. I still have memories of eating casseroles and picking out the tiny green peas for easier access to the yummy noodles.
As a health-conscious mom, I began to try all kinds of nutritious “superfoods” that I wouldn’t have touched as a picky kid.
The first time I tried brussels sprouts, I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed them. I figured my taste preferences had changed with age, and I had grown to enjoy bitter flavors.
But it turns out, my tastebuds didn’t change. I recently discovered that brussels sprouts truly do taste better now than when I was a kid, thanks to science.
About 30 years ago, a Dutch scientist identified the chemicals that made brussels sprouts bitter. He selected seed varieties with lower levels of the bitter chemicals and bred new high-yielding varieties that tasted less bitter.
And better-tasting brussels sprouts are good, not only for our appetites but also because most of us aren’t eating enough vegetables. The Centers for Disease Control reports that 90% of Americans aren’t eating the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.
We all could use a little motivation – including tastier vegetables - to eat healthier.
What are genetically engineered foods?
The new brussels sprouts varieties were developed through conventional plant breeding. In the near future, we can expect to see more gene edited foods, including foods developed through conventional breeding and through bioengineering.
Throughout history, farmers have bred plants for the best characteristics, like disease resistance and drought tolerance. The lengthy process of observing, selecting and breeding could take years or even decades to complete.
Today, scientists can use gene editing to make small, precise changes to improve plants and provide solutions to a variety of challenges. These changes often mirror what could occur in nature or through traditional genetic selection.
In the field of medicine, scientists are researching how gene editing can treat diseases such as cancer, leukemia, sickle cell anemia and a wide range of genetic disorders.
In agriculture, gene editing can help farmers keep pace with the growing demand for more and better food, while using less water, land, nutrients and other resources.
New gene-edited foods
The Conscious Greens Purple Power Baby Greens Blend is now available in select restaurants and retail stores on the West Coast.
Like the new brussels sprouts, Conscious Greens has a less-bitter taste. The greens also have double the nutritional value of Romaine lettuce and a three-day longer shelf life.
Of course, no one likes the texture of wilted lettuce that has sat in the fridge too long. However, a longer shelf-life also benefits the environment. Food waste in landfills is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
In addition, genetic editing technology could give us tastier, more nutritious and more resilient sweet corn.
Iowa State University researchers are part of a federal study to boost the taste and texture of sweet corn.
The agronomy research also could help improve the genetic diversity of sweet corn, so the crop isn’t as susceptible to drought, disease and pest pressures in changing weather patterns.
Committed to nutrition and sustainability
Scientists, farmers and food producers are committed to doing what’s right for people, animals and the earth.
And farmers understand their obligation to meet the growing demand for healthy, wholesome food while also preserving our natural resources. Gene editing technology can help farmers achieve both.
As a parent and a wellness-minded shopper, I support any effort to take the yuck out of brussels sprouts, or to help plants and animals thrive.
After all, I want to feel confident that I’m providing my family with tasty, nutritious foods that can benefit our health while protecting the environment for my daughter’s generation and beyond.
To learn more about how farmers are stepping up to the challenge of providing safe, nutritious food while caring for their farm animals and the environment, visit ConservationCountsIowa.com.
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