Scientific American Article 'The Case Against Heirlooms'

yumtomatoes(10a/FLA)February 1, 2012

I thought it would be interesting to discuss this article. I will post my thoughts later.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Case Against Heirloom Tomatoes

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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

My first response is that I'd like to box those experts' ears and then moon them.

And then put them to work growing their first tomatoes.

"Any plant that sets only two fruits, as heirlooms sometimes do, is bound to produce juicier, sweeter and more flavorful fruit than varieties that set 100" - (Roger Chetelat of the Tomato Genetics Resource Center at the University of California, Davis)

Just how many heirloom tomatoes has that idiot grown?

Several of my heirloom plants were so vigorous that I had to keep cutting them back to try to keep them in check. One pink ping pong produced *hundreds* of tomatoes. It was the most out of control of those "unproductive" heirloom tomatoes. I'd say that black Krim, Cosmonaut Volkov and Kelloggs breakfast produce about 2 dozen or more very nice fruits. Maybe by two he meant two dozen? Perhaps he's not a total moron and was just misquoted?

Thank goodness I don't read "Scientific" American any more.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 3:43PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

The article is from 2009 and has been posted here before and discussed and also posted at that time to several other message sites where it was discussed.

But I'm sure that there are many here who haven't read it, so go at it, not me, b'c I've posted about it before. ( smile)

Carolyn

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 3:47PM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

I've posted about it before. ( smile)

Carolyn

Now THAT I wanna see.

If someone finds the old thread please post it here--I did a cursory search but don't have time at the moment to search through all the pages.

Once someone finds it we should all pop some popcorn and read!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 3:59PM
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yumtomatoes(10a/FLA)

The article is from 2009 and has been posted here before and discussed and also posted at that time

I searched for scientific american and case against heirlooms but didn't find the thread. I also searched Tanksley.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 4:05PM
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yumtomatoes(10a/FLA)

"Any plant that sets only two fruits, as heirlooms sometimes do, is bound to produce juicier, sweeter and more flavorful fruit than varieties that set 100" - (Roger Chetelat of the Tomato Genetics Resource Center at the University of California, Davis)

This makes me think the researcher was misquoted. If that were true than desuckering a tomato plant would improve tomato flavor and increase their juice.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 4:07PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Link to one of the previous discussions on this. Looks like most of the rest have been deleted off the server.

If you Google the article title you can find discussions about it both here and on other forums. It's been critiqued many times since it came out and when it doesn't trigger a GMO debate or an anti-Monsanto crusade it has little to offer.

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: previous discussion

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 4:51PM
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Bob1016(9b)

Well, the fact that our modern day heirlooms are inbred is quite obvious, and the fact that only a few genes are responsible for the diversity is interesting, but the article seems to be very anti home gardener. Any one who grows heirlooms can tell you that some varieties are more vigorous and productive than some commercial hybrids. And while any home grown tomato will wipe the floor with supermarket versions, some heirlooms offer another depth of flavor that certain commercial hybrids can never achieve.
There are some excellent, flavorful hybrids that will beat out certain heirlooms, but the reverse is far more common.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 6:49PM
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mulio

Yumtomatoes,

there are recent studies showing changes to various fruit quality attributes by thinning clusters.

Note that Dr Chetelat was specifically quoted as saying "sometimes do" rather than a definitive statement.

Reading the comments a far more contentious aspect of that article seems to be the implication that most heirloom tomatoes are not as genetically diverse as more modern cultivars.

So maybe that is partly why one might sense an anti-home gardener tone. That saving tomato heirlooms isn't exactly preserving as much genetic diversity as some thought it may be. The other being that low yielding varieties will not meet the demands of industry and larger markets.

I think heirlooms have shown to be profitable in the right markets since good quality grown fruit can obtain a higher price.

I am one who would argue that crossing the two in some instances can meet demands of flavor, resistances and at the same time introduce more genetic variation. Apparently so do some of the larger companies as this article eludes too.

Here is what the article is not telling you.

Monsanto, Syngeta, some universities and some others want to figure out ways to isolate genes and through both traditional or GMO techniques potentially develop new material with utility patents for it/them.

Here is an example of one that already exists for a higher sugar gene "sucr" (note this gene is unique because it was isolated from another species).
http://www.docstoc.com/docs/46514964/Sucrose-Accumulating-Tomato-Cultivar---Patent-6072106

Essentially what is done is the gene is isolated, considered unique and rather than trying to patent the gene, or obtaining separate PVPs (plant variety protection) for each line developed in the future that would possess it, they patent all the ways by which the gene could be used or put into other lines. Essentially owning rights to that particular gene for a given length of time and preventing it's use/profit from others.

Here is a link that might be useful: WTF is a utility patent?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 2:13PM
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yumtomatoes(10a/FLA)

there are recent studies showing changes to various fruit quality attributes by thinning clusters.

I have wondered about this myself when I have noticed the variation in size of tomatoes in a cluster. Can you point me to these studies?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 3:14PM
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mulio

I'd look in greenhouse/hoophouse production information. The topic was mentioned in a recent growers meeting. It is actually a rather complex issue involving cultural practices and simply thinning alone may not have the desired effect on flavor.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 11:54AM
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springlift34

I just read a bit about GMO,and the clowns behind the scenes. My diplomatic approach would be to say, in a nutshell..it is old versus new, with the wrong idea persuading the new. Now, the other side is, if I grow and expend massive amounts of energy into a crop,decide to sell that crop at a market, and some representative were to decide to point out patent info to me regarding a particular veggie...He/she would have a definitive problem.

We are talking about a bigger problem than GMO's folks. And at the same, this is not a near-future problem either. I'm sure there will be people out there,me included,that will eventually learn the art of isolation, that will distribute seed at their own will. We will bootleg it. Hilarious in a way.

Take care,
Travis

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 8:58AM
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mulio

Just to be clear, utility patents will not just be on GMO lines but could and has happened already on open pollinated lines.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 3:57PM
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springlift34

Sure,and that is. But explain to me the importance in this lifetime. Are we speaking of the inevitable? Something that I do not see regarding GMO's. I can't shake the fact that it may be slightly overblown,at least in regards to our lifetimes.

Take care,
Travis

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 6:18PM
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soilent_green

MONSANTO TO THE RESCUE!

Yeah, right.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 2:16PM
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goggomobil(6)

I believe that clicking on articles like this one just encourages more of the same. This 'click-harvesting' can be seen in action in the 'Spotlight' section of Google News. Check out the provocative titles there, but don't click! Clicking on this junk is akin to doing business with telemarketers.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 10:42AM
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