A few weeks ago, I bought a 1lb bag of Kumato ™ tomatoes. I was wooed by the fact that it was brown, and had won an ITQi Superior Taste Award in Brussels. Moreover, the package donned a proud “WINNER” of the Men’s Health best foods for men of 2014 sticker. After checking the label, I was sold at the non-GMO verification and also the fact that it was greenhouse grown.
So apart from being really curious about how such a drab-colored tomato could win two awards, the illustrations of the stages of flavor at the back of the packaging was also an irresistible detail. Who wouldn’t want to have a tomato that tastes different at different stages of maturity?
THE FIRST POUND
I didn’t do anything too crazy with the first few tomatoes. All I did was sliced and threw them together with the regular Earth bound organic mesclun spring mix salad. I have to say, for first impressions, it was the best-tasting tomato I’ve ever had to date. There’s so much sweetness, complexity and flavor. No wonder it won awards!
THE SECOND POUND
The next week when we went shopping, I grabbed another bag of these for $2. A day later, we were shopping at Central Market and saw the same 1 lb bag of Kumato™ selling for almost $6. For this pack, I used 4 Kumatos to make a salsa for my briyani rice. That went fast! I just cut the last remaining 2 kumatos, and ate them raw like plums for a snack. Since my other half and myself love it so much, I decided I’d do a bit of research about this fascinating hybrid tomato.
THE THIRD POUND
Remembering that they cost $6 at Central Market, I bought another pack at my favorite secret grocer for $2 again. Stocked up in the fridge of my favorite tomatoes by taste, I get home and do further research on the Kumato.
Here’s what I found on Wikipedia:-
‘Kumato’ is a trade name given to a patented cultivar of tomato developed in Spain called ‘Olmeca’, which went by experimental number SX 387. It is grown in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey, The Isle of Wight Canada and Australia by specially selected growers. ‘Kumato’ is a standard size tomato cultivar weighing between 80 and 120 grams. It is firm, with a color ranging from a green to reddish brown or purple, varying in flavor from almost no flavor, to sweeter than typical tomatoes due to a higher fructose content.
Unlike other tomato cultivars, seeds cannot be purchased by the general public. Syngenta has stated that they will never make ‘Kumato’ seeds available to the general public as the ‘Kumato’ tomato is grown under a concept known as a club variety, whereby Syngenta sells seeds only to licensed growers that go through a rigorous selection process, and participation is by invitation only. Syngenta maintains ownership of the cultivar throughout the entire value chain from breeding to marketing; selected growers must agree to follow specified cultivation protocols and pay fees for licenses per acre of greenhouse, costs of the seeds, and royalties based on the volume of tomatoes produced. Typically, Syngenta licenses only one large vertically integrated greenhouse producer per country that has well established relationships with grocery chains.
Further research on if these tomatoes can be planted by seed yielded very dismal results. The first generation seeds that are patented are called F1 and they cannot be bought by the public. If you extracted the seeds from the tomatoes, those are categorized as F2 seeds. They may not produce fruit like their parent, or taste the same because these are hybrid seeds.
So here’s my dilemma. I love the taste of these babies. These are exquisite stuff and to a gourmet foodie, this is an experience not to be missed.
What I don’t love is the word Syngenta and what that represents. Syngenta AG is a global Swiss agribusiness that produces agrochemicals and seeds. I’ve never been a staunch activist against agrochemical corporations, I’m just concerned about our food supply chain is all. My intuition tells me something isn’t quite right about this.
Almost anybody who cares about where their food comes from and the future of global food production has heard of Monsanto, and are not supportive of the control they seek to have on the global food supply. Syngenta is one of their rivals, and in fact Monsanto are aggressively bidding to buyout Syngenta. They are controlling the food chain from seed to table, and it just seems so wrong to me.
What I also know is I am not okay with buying food that is produced by a company whose main business are in chemical herbicides and pesticides. I am also not a proponent of seed patenting, for the sheer reason that I believe that being able to grow food is a human right. It’s a greedy, selfish, and unethical way to control food from the level of the seed, and throughout the supply chain as well. Without going off an Armageddon tangent, I just feel this is greedy-evil, and I have problems swallowing this.
No matter how pretty they package it up, my issue is one of trust. I don’t trust chemical companies messing with my food, setting a stage for perpetual generational dependency, and making me hooked on something that only they can supply. So for that reason, as much as I love how they taste, I’ll try to find other organic heirloom alternatives to eat and/or plant.
After we finish that pack in the fridge, I’m going to stop buying Kumato.
HAPPY (for the taste), NOT (for the morals).