When Jeff Goldblum said, “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should,” he was talking about the decision to bring back giant, carnivorous dinosaurs, but the quote’s applications stretch far and wide. Most recently on the radar of IFLScience? Ham-colored GMO pineapples.
The pink pineapple, named “Pinkglow” by its creators at Del Monte, is a genetically modified organism (GMO) that’s been tinkered with to give it uniquely flesh-colored flesh. It got the go-ahead from the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) back in 2016 but didn’t hit the shelves until 2020 – a big year for cursed things, clearly.
The Ananas comosus "Rosé" variety, as Pinkglow is known on its patent, sits in the Bromeliaceae family and was developed via genetic engineering of the MD2 pineapple. Its unique traits include a light red color with yellow spots and a unique shell morphology that come together to create a nourishing flesh-colored fruit.
Its meaty aesthetic however isn't reflected in the flavor, which Del Monte says is sweeter and less acidic than your average pineapple with notes of "candy pineapple aromatics".
"(Del Monte) submitted information to the agency to demonstrate that the pink flesh pineapple is as safe and nutritious as its conventional counterparts," NBC News reports the FDA said in 2016.
"(Del Monte’s) new pineapple has been genetically engineered to produce lower levels of the enzymes already in conventional pineapple that convert the pink pigment lycopene to the yellow pigment beta carotene. Lycopene is the pigment that makes tomatoes red and watermelons pink, so it is commonly and safely consumed."
To turn the pineapple’s flesh ham-pink, the scientists in Del Monte’s lab cooked up a pineapple strain with the genes that code for certain enzymes that turn pineapples yellow turned down. This means the fruit maintains its lycopene, a member of the carotenoid pigments which is said to be a powerful antioxidant.
All sounding rather wonderful, then, but not everybody has been so convinced by the Pinkglow aesthetic…
A “Jewel of the Jungle,” as Del Monte describe it, or a forbidden flesh fruit? You decide, but there are some perks to the GMO pink pineapple beyond its lycopene content.
Each Pinkglow pineapple (which comes with a price tag of $29.99 – $39.99) arrives without a crown (the spiky bit on the top) because they are cut off at harvest to be replanted in the South-Central region of Costa Rica where they are exclusively grown. This practice, Del Monte says, makes the fruit “properly sustainable” and perhaps explains the cost.
If spamapple isn’t your cup of tea, how about purple tomatoes? A new, antioxidant-rich, GMO purple tomato could soon be available in stores near you, as UK company Norfolk Plant Sciences seek approval for their Big Purple Tomato. The fruit (yes, botanically speaking tomatoes are fruits) is stuffed full of anthocyanins that could have a positive influence on longevity if mouse models are anything to go by.