Seedless Fruits: Are They GMOs?

Seedless Fruits: Are They GMOs?


Seeds. Potent little packages of genetic material! You bury them in the ground, and miraculously
they grow food — and that food gives you new seeds, and the circle continues, and you
never, ever grow hungry again! But what about seedless fruits and vegetables? Is this… genetic modification?! [MUSIC] Grapes, watermelon, citrus, cucumbers. These were foods had seeds in them when
I was a kid. But now, when you go to the grocery store
— at least here in the United States — and most of them are seedless. So… how? Let me say right off the bat that we’re
not dealing with GMOs here — you know: genetically modified organisms. Those are foods whose genetics are manipulated
by scientists in ways that can’t occur in nature. Seedless plants are not common in nature,
but they do exist! It’s called parthenocarpy. And there’s actually a clue in the name! Where are my Greek scholars? It comes from “parthnos,” which means
virgin. And karpos, meaning fruit. Virgin fruit means fruit grown without fertilization. And this gives you seedless fruit! Okay, a quick recap on what fertilization
actually is: If you think back to almost every HDIG episode, we discover how farmers bring
in bees to help pollinate their fields. As the bees buzz from plant to plant, they
transport pollen and drop it on the female parts of the flowers, and those fertilized
ovaries grow into fruit. And that fruit contains seeds. Now get this: There ARE plants that can grow
fruit without that transfer of pollen… including certain kinds of cucumbers! Seedless cucumbers are parthenocarpic — they can grow fruit without fertilization. But it’s not all easy peasy… If you’re a farmer who wants to grow seedless
cucumbers, you don’t grow them in an open field like you do (with) seeded cucumbers, like the ones you saw in our HDIG episode. You put those parthenocarpic plants in a greenhouse
— you lock ‘em up! [prison key clunk] IF a pollinator happens to drop some pollen
and fertilize a flower, it will grow into a seeded cucumber — which totally defeats
the purpose! OK, so we’ve got parthenocarpy – an unusual
but naturally occurring genetic condition. Well there’s another one: stenospermocarpy. Are you with me? Stenospermocarpy gives us seedless grapes. This is when a plant IS pollinated and fertilized;
seed development begins; but the plant aborts the process before the seed matures. That’s why you’ll find tiny, soft ghost like
seeds inside your grapes instead of the big, crunchy bitter ones that you find in seeded varieties. Now in the case of seedless citrus fruit,
farmers are basically outsmarting their trees. Lots of citrus trees can’t produce
fruits with seeds inside of them, unless their flowers are fertilized with pollen from a genetically different variety. So, say there are two Cara Cara orange trees standing next to each other, they can’t pollinate each other and produce fruit with seeds inside. They’ll produce fruit, but fruit without
seeds inside! See that? So farmers looking to grow seedless fruit,
will grow entire orchards of just one single variety. And as we saw in our Orange | HDIG episode,
that means farmers are actually planting clones.Clones?! Breathe — this is just good old fashioned
genetic selection. See, for millennia, plant breeders have chosen
plants for different traits — like sweetness, or color, or hardiness — and they hand-pollinated the plants
to create new varieties of their choosing. In the case of fruit like citrus, grapes, apples, bananas, cuttings are taken from those new varieties, and those cuttings — which
are basically baby clones — are planted instead of a seed to ensure the fruit is exactly what
the farmer wants. I took a deep dive into this in our Apple | HDIG episode. And you can check out that one and all of the episodes I’ve mentioned by clicking on the links in the description below. You know what’s kind of crazy to think about? For thousands of years we were eating watermelons and grapes and other fruits with seeds. And just in the last decade or two,
the popularization of seedless varieties has made it actually difficult to find varieties with seeds. Now I know that’s not the case in many parts
of the world — but it is here in the U.S., where, it seems like, for better or worse, convenience conquers
complexity of taste. That especially goes for seedless watermelon! But seedless watermelon is a whole other can
of worms! In fact, the process is so unique, I dedicated
an entire video to it. And amazingly, you beautiful nerds really seemed to dig it! If you haven’t checked it out, click that little banner thing up there. For everyone else, you’ll want to click
the link immediately below this video that says “Become a TrueFood TV Patron” — you’ll get exclusive
behind the scenes content, and most importantly, you’ll support the growth of this channel. So we can keep dropping seeds of knowledge for you.