Most fruits and vegetables we enjoy today are roughly ten to twenty times the size of those around centuries ago, which early humans subsequently domesticated. Scientists have just discovered, through the power of genetic engineering, a way to make them even bigger. Science reports the science behind it:
“Fruit size and other plant traits depend on what happens in the uppermost part of the stem, a growing tip called the meristem. There, unspecialized cells called stem cells divide to make more of themselves or specialize into specific plant parts, like carpels, the flower organs that make seed compartments… The scientists discovered a feedback loop involving two genes, one to stimulate stem cell production and the other to hold production in check…. [weakening the negative gene’s energy supply] yields ever larger fruit, the scientists report. Because this feedback loop exists in most plants, the team suspects plant breeders can manipulate it to improve crops, and even increase the number of kernels on a corncob.”
Mankind will not starve for lack of fruit. The potential of genetic engineering and biotechnology to better human life is staggering. If scientists can genetically engineer crops to produce bigger fruits, then farmers can harvest greater yields without requiring additional resources like fertilizer, water, land, or labor. In fact, these inputs can all be reduced. More food can be produced—and more people can be fed—with less resources consumed. That’s good for the economy, and for the environment, and most importantly for the quality of human life.
Of course, don’t tell greens this. It’s something of a fad for environmentalists to seek out the latest impending disaster that spells doom for humanity, the Earth, or both. We have covered this tendency many times before, looking at green paranoia about water scarcity, food scarcity, and overpopulation. In every case, greens have panicked about the human impact on the planet, viewing mankind as some kind of scourge upon the Earth. Yet in every case, technology or some unforeseen social dynamic or ecological phenomenon nullifies whatever pernicious impact human civilization might have on the environment.
The case of the incredible expanding tomatoes is only the latest nail in the coffin of Malthus’s bankrupt theories and those of his heirs. The world isn’t about to end; it’s about to get a lot more interesting.