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Human role in evolution of modern food crops revealed in photos

Genetic modification

(NaturalNews) Ever since ancient times, the human race has sought to understand the world around it and grasp the roots of the phenomenon of life. In its assiduous quest to gain more knowledge, humanity has often experimented with other life forms, such as plants or animals. Our pursuit of a complete understanding of life has only been rivaled by our desire to live more comfortably.

Occasionally, it even seemed right to experiment on other human beings in an attempt to gain more information about ourselves. Blinded by the possibility of acquiring knowledge, humanity has irreversibly changed the world around it, starting with the very plants that grow around us.

What you think plants look like

What we buy in supermarkets or even farmer's markets are pristine examples of plants and vegetables. They look good, they smell good and, most of the time, they also taste amazing. Fragrance, color, flavor and even consistency can easily be altered at the level of a plant's genes. Oh, wait, did you think that this is how Mother Nature made them in the first place?

Before scientists were able to manipulate genes, plants and fruits were modified by selective breeding. Also referred to as artificial selection (because we do it, not nature), this used to mean that a farmer would select the plants they thought had the best characteristics, and keep them as seeds for the next crop. Selective breeding was also a practice commonly used with animals, for the same purposes.

Obviously, this was a time-consuming process and it meant that one needed to invest many years into developing a good exemplary. With the dawn of trading and profits from sold goods, time itself became a commodity. People needed perfect plants and animals to trade immediately, not the following year. It wasn't long before GMOs showed up.

Fruits and veggies that looked completely different

Genetic Engineering (GE) and selective breeding completely changed the way some plants and fruits look. Some of the originals are so unrecognizable that you wouldn't be able to tell what they were developed into. This is what human intervention was busy doing when not at war for power.

Corn is probably one of the most striking examples. Domesticated around 7,000 B.C., you could confuse corn with green beans. Back then, it was found only in Central America, and was no longer than an inch. Taste-wise, corn was no sweet delight, being very similar to raw potato. Also, you needed to hammer it with a hard object to open it.

Possibly first cultivated around 10,000 years ago in Papua New Guinea, bananas had large, lemon-like seeds and a hefty exterior. Their rough flesh demanded some good tools for the fruit to be opened up. Besides sweetening it and making the seeds almost unnoticeable, we literally invented the idea of peeling a banana.

What happened to the natural peach? In 4,000 BC, they were as small as cherries and were only found in China. In terms of taste, they were salty and earth-like. More than one third of the fruit was the seed itself. Nowadays, they are four times larger, taste sweet, and the seed is only around 10% of the total fruit.

Genetically modified organisms

Manipulating a plant's genes in order to make it resistant to drought or pests meant higher yields for every crop, which was then monetized into more capital. Weeds were also a problem that required time and attention. GE developed herbicide resistant crops, and this meant farmers could get rid of weeds by spraying the entire field with toxic chemicals, while their plants and fruits would be just fine.

The issue with GMO foods is that they pose inherent life-risks for whoever eats them. From the unpredictable side-effects of combining unrelated species to the hormone disruption, sterility and cancer caused by residues of toxic herbicides, we are yet to fully understand GE. Despite this, GMO foods are widely promoted, with very few governments acknowledging their risks.

Humanity did not stop at plants, however. Animals are being cloned, genetically manipulated to be fluorescent, have fewer feathers, more fur or muscle, depending on our needs. Now, we're moving on to human beings.

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