Papayas are one of the healthiest, most delicious fruits out there. Rich in vitamins A and C for your skin and immune system, full of enzymes that aid digestion and reduce bloating, and packed with potassium for healthy blood pressure levels and to also battle bloat, papayas truly are a dream! Their sweet, tropical taste is also great whether you eat them alone, use them in a smoothie, in a fruit-based salsa, over oatmeal, or even blend them with some citrus to make a salad dressing. However, as you might have already heard, these tropical fruits are also one of the most frequently genetically modified crops, and unless you know what to look out for at the store, it can be tricky to find one that’s free of GMOs if it’s not labeled organic or GMO-free (most aren’t).
First Though, What are GMOs?
For those of you that don’t know what GMOs are, or you’ve heard about them and are a little fuzzy on the details, GMOs are genetically modified organisms that are produced in a lab by taking the gene of one species and inserting it into another to obtain a desired trait or characteristic. The end result creates transgenic organisms. While it might sound harmless, keep in mind it’s not the same as mating the seed of two apples to form a new apple. For instance, previous transgenic organisms have been creating by splicing fish genes with tomato genes, producing corn with jellyfish genes, and even human genes injected into corn to produce spermicide - yes, seriously.
According to the Non-GMO shopping Guide’s website, GMOs are created by one of the following methods: “using viruses or bacteria to ‘infect’ animal or plant cells with the new DNA, coating DNA onto tiny metal pellets and firing it with a special gun into the cells, injecting the new DNA into fertilized eggs with a very fine needle, or using electric shocks to create holes in the membrane covering sperm and then forcing the new DNA into the sperm through these holes.”
How natural does that sound to all of you?
We have to worry about all this just when choosing a fruit like papayas? Somewhat, yes. Not enough research has been done over time for us to fully understand the long-term effects of GMOs and our health. All we are able to do now it draw upon research that has been done that show GMOs are overall smart to avoid because we’re not able to tell exactly how they’re produced, or what they may mean for our health before consuming them.
What Crops are the Most Genetically Modified?
Aside from cottonseed and canola oil, the top five most genetically modified crops today are sugar beets, corn, soy, zucchini, and papayas, though technically any food made with these (or any food not labeled GMO-free) may be genetically modified. Along with buying certified organic and non-GMO products, it’s generally smart to do your research with produce to know what you’re buying.
For instance, papayas are rarely sold in organic form, but this doesn’t mean you have to completely avoid them. As long as you know what to look for to choose a non-GMO papaya, you can feel completely safe about purchasing and eating them.
Papayas and GMOs
The first GMO papaya crop was first administered in Hawaii where the plants originate from. Meant to be a way to create a virus-resistant plant against a common papaya virus, known as ringspot virus (PRSV), the initial idea was to make the plant safer. In Puna, Hawaii, where papayas are largely grown, the GMO crop initially solved many problems for producers and consumers wishing to enjoy them without worry. However, years later people started to show concerns and began asking for more GMO-free papaya. By then, the cross-contamination issue and spread of GMO seeds was so vast and large, creating a complete GMO-free papaya zone was largely impossible, and still poses a challenge today for Hawaii. As a result, Hawaii has lost a large part of its papaya growers and consumers are left on their own to learn which types of papaya are GMO-free and which ones are not.
GMO papayas account for approximately 75 percent of the 30 million pounds produced in the United States via Hawaii. The good news is, finding a GMO-free papaya is simply knowing what types are not produced with genetically modified seeds and which ones are.
Here are some common papaya types and explanations if they are produced via GMO seeds or not:
Types of Papaya That Contain GMOs
- Rainbow papayas, which were the first to be genetically modified to prevent ringspot virus that is common to the crop.
- Hybrids made with Rainbow papayas, which include names such as: Sun Up Strawberry, and Sunrise.
GMO-Free Papaya Types
Aside from buying organic, which ensures the product is GMO-free, the best way to choose a GMO-free papaya is to buy the original type of papaya that is native to the island, which is the Kapoho (also called Kapoho Solo) variety. This papaya has a yellowish flesh, not a pink flesh like most hybrid and commercial GMO papaya crops.
Other varieties that are not genetically modified include: The Mexican Red (red flesh), Caribbean Red, Maradol, Royal Star papayas (red flesh and often sold at Whole Foods), The Singapore Pink (bright orange flesh), and the Higgins variety (a bright yellow flesh). Most papayas from Mexico and from Belize such as these types, are not genetically modified like those from Hawaii.
So, we hope that helps solve the question as to whether you’re eating a GMO-free papaya or not. Regardless that it can be tricky at first, keep in mind that buying organic means you don’t have to worry with GMOs at all. Otherwise, use these tips and use papaya this summer to brighten your skin, make your tummy happy, and increase your immunity, all with just 55 calories per cup, plenty of water, and easy-to-digest soluble fiber.
Do you eat papaya? Which type is your favorite?
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