We view “GMO” foods as being a relatively modern thing, but did you know that many of the fruits and vegetables that we eat were already genetically modified thousands of years ago? Our modern foods are very different from how their ancestors were, both aesthetically and genetically! Here’s a list of 10 shocking genetically modified foods that you simply won’t believe:
10. Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Kale
None of these popular vegetables actually exist in the wild: they are artificially created variations of the mustard plant. In order to create the subspecies, i.e. cauliflower, the genes controlling the way the plant grows are modified.
Corn is a relation of a wild grass species called Zea, and after being selectively bred for over 10,000 years we have the crop as we know it today. Oddly enough, the genetic difference between the ancient and the modern is very small, with only five genes making up the difference.
Pumpkins come from the Cucurbita genus, and like corn, this genus was domesticated over 7,000 years ago! Back then you could expect your squash or pumpkins to be quite small and bitter, but later on, people started to focus on creating varieties of different sizes and flesh types.
The coffee bean was first cultivated during the 1600s in India and now comes in so many different varieties we dread to count! All of the modern varieties are descendant from the ancient Arabica bean.
If we get an avocado today with a huge pit and very little flesh we get a little annoyed, but the original avocados were actually like this, with the flesh that they did boast being very gritty instead of creamy.
The cultivation of wheat goes so far back we don’t even have records of it! What we do know is that wheat was one of the most important crops to be grown in a time when human civilization was moving from a primitive to an agricultural lifestyle.
Would you believe that this fruit is one of the most modified in human history? The first varieties were created by Africans and came in different sizes and colors, but after the fruit made its way to Asia and Europe it became sweeter and bigger. The red coloring of the fruit is something that has been intentionally bred and is caused by the overproduction of a compound called lycopene.
It feels like this fruit has been around forever, but the strawberry as we know it today was only cultivated as recently as in the 1750s. After a lot of trial and tribulation, the garden variety of strawberry was created in France by crossing a large, wild variety of strawberry with wild berries from America. The strawberry as we know and love it was eventually created during hybridization experiments in 1806, by accident!
The almonds we eat today have been derived from a few other kinds of wild almonds, domesticated so that they’re actually edible for us. In the wild, almonds contain the deadly toxin, cyanide. In the past, we humans found the sweetest varieties of these almonds and interbred them until a type of edible almond was created.
Out in the wild, the bananas you’d come across would be pretty much inedible: they are tough and filled with seeds. The bananas we have come to know have been genetically modified over 6,500 years!