“Genetically-modified purple tomatoes heading for shops,” screamed the headline, while the mind quietly boggled.
How much genetic modification are we talking about exactly? Have the Canadian growers bred sentience into these mauve solanaceae? Have they endowed them with little purple legs so they can trot their way to the shops? And little purple hands to hold their shopping bags?
Let's face it, we could be looking at a squirrel scenario here. You know how it goes: tough foreign breed is introduced to our shores and squeezes out native red variety, which only survives in niche habitats in the north of Scotland.
All right, our British red tomato isn’t really any more native than its Canadian GM clone. But it’s happened before, it could happen again. So why let the facts get in the way of a good scare story?
And speaking of scare stories, did you hear the one about the cannibal rat ghost ship? Now that really did make the skin prickle.
It started in the Sun, with a sobering headline: “SHIP OF GHOULS”; a well-balanced introduction: “A GHOST ship laden with cannibal RATS is sailing for our shores, experts fear — as nobody knows where it is!”; and a photo of the ill-starred cruise liner Lyubov Orlova looming out of a writhing mist of Photoshop.
Regional papers with circulation areas bordering on the Atlantic Ocean were quick to pick up on the tale. Step forward the Herald of Plymouth with “Ghost ship full of cannibal rats could be about to crash into Devon coast.” (Notice that phrase “could be”? Try replacing it with “not” and see if it changes the meaning.)
And it can only be a matter of time before our very own Bath Chronicle splashes (geddit?) on “DEATH ship packed to the GUNWALES with cannibal RATS with a taste for purple TOMATOES sighted at Saltford MARINA and heading up the Avon for BATH!!!”
|PURPLE TOMATO MOLECULE: some anthocyanin, yesterday|
At least it would make a change from all that fuss about bus gates.
In times of trouble, though, the BBC is quick to calm our fears. It pretty much ignored the cannibal rats, and instead concentrated (double geddit?) on the tomatoes.
It appears that they will be squished in their native Canada before embarking for our shores, and every last seed seived out to ensure there’s no chance of genetic contamination or cross-breeding.
And the purple pulp will contain enhanced levels of anthocyanin, which sounds nasty but is really an anti-oxidant that does all sorts of healthy things to you. Allegedly. You can get it from blueberries and cranberries too, but they don’t taste quite as good on pizza.
So mix yourself a stiff Bruised Mary and relax: when it comes to tomatoes, the boffins know best.