Rob: Hello I’m Rob. Welcome to 6 Minute English. With me today is Finn. Hello Finn.
Finn: Hello Rob.
Rob: Now Finn, I'd like to start by asking you a question. Would you eat a purple coloured tomato?
Finn: Purple? Well, that depends. Is it a naturally coloured tomato? Where does it come from? Is this an artificial tomato? Rob, tell me more.
Rob: Artificial - yes, you mean is it man-made and trying to copy something that is natural? Well, in a way - yes. Because scientists have developed a genetically2
modified purple tomato; they took red tomato plants and changed their genetic1
patterns so that they now produce new, purple tomatoes.
Finn: Yes, so this would be an example of GM - genetically modified - food. It's something we'll be discussing more soon and, of course, looking at some related vocabulary.
Rob: But here's another question for you Finn that hasn't been modified - or changed - in any way! GM food has been researched and experimented with for many years but do you know when the first genetically modified food was first sold commercially? Was it in:
Finn: Well, we think of GM food as a recent thing so I'll say the opposite, a) 1974.
Rob: OK, we’ll find out if you're right later on. Let's talk more now about genetically modified food - or GM food. It's called this because the food's genes3
have been changed. This means the way it grows is different from the way it grows when it isn’t touched by humans.
Finn: Yes, so, growing GM food - or crops - is controversial. Some scientists think it's needed to meet the world's growing demand for food.
Rob: Yes, GM food can resist - or stop the effects of - some pests or bad weather. It can grow more quickly, meaning even more crops can be cultivated - or grown.
Finn: But opponents of GM food - people who argue against it - say we don't know enough about its effect on the environment.
Rob: And then there are the fears about who controls what's grown.
Finn: Yes, but despite this, GM food has become an important part of food production. Crops like sweetcorn, rape4
plants, wheat and tomatoes have all been genetically modified.
Rob: Yes, like the purple tomato, which was recently developed in the UK. It has a dark pigment5
- or colour - which gives it the same potential health benefits as blueberries.
Finn: Well, that sounds like a good thing. And not only that, it has an antioxidant - that's a substance that stops the decaying process - which tests show could help fight cancer.
Rob: One day we could see these purple tomatoes on pizzas or in our tomato ketchup6
. Let's hear from Professor Cathie Martin who is a plant biologist from The John Innes Centre who developed this tomato. What does she say is good about this new food?
Professor Cathie Martin, Plant Biologist, John Innes Centre:
With these purple tomatoes, you can get the same compounds that are present in blueberries and cranberries7
that give them their health benefits but you can apply them to foods that people actually eat in significant amounts and that are reasonably affordable8
Rob: So she says the good thing about this development is we can get health benefits from something we eat significant amounts of - so lots of - and they will be reasonably affordable - so it will be cheap.
Finn: Yes but there's still maybe a problem with the colour. We are affected9
by the colour of stuff we put in our mouths. I mean, who eats blue food?!
Rob: That's true. And also because the European Union has restrictions10
on growing GM food, this tomato has to be grown in Canada where rules are more supportive of GM foods.
Finn: OK. Well, Professor Nick Pidgeon, who is an Environmental Psychologist, says in the UK there is some distrust of GM food.
Rob: He says some people are concerned all this is messing with nature - it's not natural - and maybe we don't know what the long-term consequences are.
Finn: And a big concern is that large corporations will have control over the technology. And this could mean they control food prices too. You know Rob, I think this is a debate that will go on and on and on.
Rob: Indeed. But it's now time to reveal the answer to today's question. Earlier I asked you if you knew when the first genetically modified food was first sold commercially.
Finn: I said a) 1974.
Rob: Interesting. The answer is actually 1994. A company called Calgene sold a product that delayed the ripening11
Finn: OK, well, I guess that means the fruit could last longer and it would stop it going soft?
Rob: That was the idea. Now, before we go, Finn, could you remind us of some of the vocabulary that we've heard today?
Finn: Yes, I will.
Rob: Well, that brings us to the end of today's 6 Minute English. We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s programme. Please join us again soon.