BY MARIAM SHARIA
It is interesting to note that although the GMO debate rages on (and forever will, probably) genetic manipulation via selective breeding has been around since humans have been growing their own food.
A GMO is essentially the splicing of genes to achieve a desired trait. For produce, that means anything from virus resistance to herbicide tolerance to, ideally, improved nutritional value.
But, since back in the day, like way, way back in the day, farmers didn’t have the GMO option (most still don’t, but that’s a different article entirely), they resorted to selective breeding, which achieved the same thing but took generations to develop (think chihuahuas descending from wolves).
Which is how we got the modern banana. For, you see, bananas didn’t always look like they do. They used to look like this:
“MY GOD,” you might say. “What is this uncouth piece of fruit, the very essence of discomfort, evil, and trypophobia in edible form?” It’s what a banana used to look like, my friend.
Human ingenuity made the banana asexual by manipulating it into seedlessness. OG bananas were cultivated sometime between 7,000 to 10,000 years ago in what is now known as Papua New Guinea. They used to have big, hard, gnarly-looking seeds.
The peach was domesticated back in 4,000 B.C. and farmers have been making it bigger and juicier with each generation. The peach as we know it today is 16 times bigger, 27% juicier, and way more nutritious than it’s cherry-sized wild ancestor.
The first carrots date back to 10th century Persia and Asia Minor and were originally white or purple with a skinny, edible root. At some point farmers mutated the purple pigment out of them and they turned yellow, and subsequently orange. We basically made it look more like a food and less like a piece of uprooted baby tree.
Scientists agree that the watermelon originated in Africa almost 5,000 years ago, although where in Africa is a question long-debated. The watermelon was not always the sweet n’ tasty refreshing entity we now know it to be— it actually used to be bitter, very round, and have a pale-green flesh. People only kept watermelons around because they were fantastic water storage, remaining edible for weeks and even months if kept out of the heat and sun. Selective breeding would cause the watermelon to take on it’s interior red tint, because the gene for red is paired with the gene that determines sugar content.
Corn is one of the oldest foods, so after 10,000 years we’ve basically got it down to it’s most efficient form. That form being 1000 times bigger, 3.5 times sweeter, and an enormous yet unquantifiable amount easier to grow and peel than its initial iteration, a spindly grass-like plant.
Perhaps most mystical of all is the eggplant. Throughout history, the eggplant has donned a variety of shapes and colors— from white, purple, yellow and even azure to spherical, thorny, and oblong. Over time, the spikes have been weeded out of its genetic makeup and it has come to resemble the large, fleshy vegetable it is today.
Thanks to Distractify for this article