What we can learn from the first genetically engineered food

cut tomato
CC BY 2.0 Flickr

Amidst the debates over GMO labeling laws, it's a good moment to take a look at the first genetically engineered food.

This short film by Retro Report on the Flavr Savr, a genetically engineered tomato from the firm Calgene, revisits a time when genetically engineered food was a less divisive topic.

Seeing Red: The Flavr Savr Tomato from Retro Report on Vimeo.

What's fascinating is that genetic engineering was a kind of selling point for this fruit. In some ways, GMOs are suffering from a massive branding crisis. The efforts of big agrochemical companies like Monsanto to obscure the origins of genetically engineered plants creates a kind of void where we imagine the worst. But for the Flavr Savr, transparency was an advantage and discussions about how the genes of the plant were manipulated also communicated its benefit to the consumer.

Maybe the public won't be convinced that vegetables that produce their own insecticides are healthy. But the argument has been made that biotech companies could benefit from more transparency.

If you're not familiar with Retro Report, it's a nonprofit online video project that takes a long-term look at some of the biggest news headlines. You can watch more Retro Report stories on The New York Times website.

What we can learn from the first genetically engineered food
Retro Report revisits the Flavr Savr, the first genetically engineered food to hit American grocery stores.