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Calgene Inc. and the Pure Food Campaign

Essay by   •  August 24, 2011  •  Essay  •  719 Words (3 Pages)  •  2,545 Views

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CALGENE INC. AND THE PURE FOOD CAMPAIGN

Over the past decade, Calgene Inc. has invested $20 million in research to develop a rot-resistant tomato. Tomatoes make an enzyme called polygalacturonase (PG) that causes them to soften as they ripen. To avoid damage to tomatoes during shipping to, and handling in, supermarkets and to extend their shelf life, growers pick tomatoes when they are green and hard, then treat them with ethylene. Ethylene is the chemical that normally causes ripening on the vine. This process will eventually turn the green tomatoes red but they remain relatively pale, mushy, and tasteless. The technique that Calgene used to solve this problem is called gene-splicing. Calgene researchers developed a procedure to prevent the tomato from producing PG. They make an antisense, or mirror image, of the gene that carries instructions for the enzyme. They then insert the antisense gene into the tomato's DNA. This blocks production of PG and allows growers to wait until the tomato is turning red before harvesting. The result is a redder, firmer, more flavorful tomato.

Calgene intends to market the tomatoes as MacGregor's Tomatoes and the seeds as FLAVR SAVOR (see Exhibit A). Given better texture, color, and taste, the product should be a major success with few problems, right? Unfortunately for Calgene, it is not that simple.

The smallest problem Calgene faces is cost. The process costs significantly more than standard tomato production and will require a 30 to 100 percent premium at retail. However, given the product's advantages, this should not unduly restrict sales. A much more serious problem is the general environment in which the product is being launched. Many consumers are skeptical of modem science and are convinced that artificial products are inherently inferior and/or dangerous. There is a seemingly endless series of discoveries that products which were once considered safe can cause cancer or other problems.

The tremendous success of Jurassic Park reveals the public's fascination with science and DNA experiments gone amuck. Both consumers and farmers are concerned and are conservative. As one farmer stated: My family has been in this business for 65 years, and ['m not about to crawl in a test tube with scientists. Businesses are also conservative. Campbell Soup Co. funded much of Calgene's research on the new tomato. However, Campbell's will not use them until after they are popular with consumers: We are not jeopardizing this business. We clearly have to show ourselves and the consumer what the benefits are to justify moving ahead. Calgene's position is made more difficult by a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (BGH) developed by Monsanto. When injected into cows, BGH can increase milk production by 15 percent. The potential health risk associated with BGH, though small or nonexistent, have

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