Can Buying GMO and 'Ugly' Fruits Reduce Food Waste?


I love buying produce, but I can't stand ugly fruit and veggies. I stare at a mound of oranges, picking up at least five of them before making my selection. I don't want scratches, mushiness, green spots or bumps even though I know it will taste the same; I want a perfect, round, bright, flawless orange. What the heck?

Somehow we've created an idea that produce taken home from the grocery store needs to look like a perfectly gift-wrapped package. But, is that realistic or natural? And doesn't it mean the ugly fruits just go to waste? Sure, I'll take a reusable bag to the store with me, but I might not be able to train myself to purposely choose the ugly-ripened avocados.

In the past year or more, initiatives have started popping up to decrease food waste by using the "ugly" fruits and vegetables. My favorite example is using imperfect apples to make hard cider, but there are also grocery stores finding ways to sell or donate imperfect produce and innovations within GMO technology to decrease effects like browning.

What am I talking about? Early this year, Kroger plans to launch a brand that will bundle and sell fruits not typically met by shelf standards. And some pop-up stores, delivery services and groceries have slowly been promoting the not-so-cute fruits and veggies to customers. But, will our fruit selection process really change? Food waste primarily occurs at retail and consumer levels, and the produce section sees the highest percentage of loss.

The awareness is there, but old habits die hard. So if we won't buy the bumpy pear, there's another growing approach to this issue: genetically modified organisms. There are currently 10 GMO crops available on the market (not including salmon) and a newer development prevents browning in apples. Haven't heard of Arctic apples? Imagine eating apple slices that won't turn a little brown near the center; it makes my weird anti-imperfect-fruit psyche happy just thinking about it. I know the debate is still out about consuming GMO products, but maybe a combination of this technology and increased purchasing of "lower-standard" produce could help reduce our food waste - which should really be our focus because when food is wasted, so are the resources used to grow it.

What do you think? Would you rather eat an ugly fruit or non-browning apples? I think I'd like to try both.

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