The Trouble With The Supermarket Tomato

There are just way too many problems with our food system, from the cost to the GMOs to workers’ rights issues. But a new book focuses on one particular food – the beloved tomato. Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit by Barry Estabrook lays out why supermarket tomatoes tend to taste so bad — and how they got that way. If you or someone you know likes to buy tomatoes from the supermarket in the dead of winter, you might want to listen to this NPR story from yesterday and reconsider your next purchase.

The book explains that 90 percent of the fresh tomatoes that we find in the supermarkets are grown in Florida, depending on the time of year and at certain times of the winter, and yet Florida is about the worst possible place to grow tomatoes. So the tomatoes are sprayed with 110 different pesticides, herbicides, and fungacides over the course of a season. Did you know that the majority of the state’s tomatoes are also raised in sand? Not sandy soil, but pure sand. As if that’s not bad enough, up until recently workers on many of Florida’s industrial tomato farms were basically slaves.

I think my mom summed it up best when I told her about this story. She let out a deep sigh and said “There’s more foods I shouldn’t eat than foods I should. Soon there’ll be nothing left.”

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