Articles From Whole Latte Love

Genetically Engineered Coffee Brews Controversy

Posted: 09/22/09
In 1999: 1st US patent concerning the genetic makeup of coffee awarded to the University of Hawaii, for halting the growth process of coffee cherries. The engineered cherries would develop just short of maturity…ripening would only occur when the plants were sprayed with Ethylene.
In 2000 French Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAC planted 1st outdoor trial of genetically modified coffee in French Guiana. The test plants were given a toxin gene to repel moth larvae. The field was destroyed by vandals five years after it was planted.
2003: Japan’s Nara Institute of Science and Technology genetic makeup of coffee to create 1st decaffeinated plant. (For more information on traditional decaffeination methods, see our blog, “To Become Decaffeinated” Parts one and two.)
2006: Nestlé acquires patent on genetically modified coffee plants, said to produce coffee powder with improved solubility.

Coffee Bean Altered By GeneticsYesterday, I eyed my latte with unprecedented suspicion. What good was the organic syrup if Franken-beans had made their way into my cup? It seems as though I’m not the only one taking notice.

Lawmakers recently passed a ban preventing genetically engineered coffee from being planted Hawaii. The move protects the famed Kona beans from potentially being contaminated by genetically modified crops. According to John Langenstein, sales manager for Koa Coffee Plantation, some European and Japanese coffee drinkers have threatened to boycott Kona coffee, should it become “tainted” by engineered plants.

But, it’s not just the reputation of presvtigious coffee on the line. There are some serious ethical issues at stake. For starters, the vast majority of our coffee is grown by rural farmers, in developing nations, already struggling with diminishing profits—a bleak reality that may become harsher with the advent of genetically modified crops.

Mom and pop operations, unable afford to engineered seeds, may have a tough time competing with large farms, better equipped to absorb the initial costs. Plants, modified to better resist pests and ripen on demand, will allow big farming businesses to cut down on the amount of labor necessary to maintain their fields—giving them a distinct financial advantage. Coffee Question Mark

Proponents of genetically modified crops argue that the resulting foodstuff can have enhanced taste and quality or even increased nutritional values. Look at watermelons, the genetically modified version—you know, the ones without seeds—have become pretty popular throughout the years. And, some assert with a growing population, genetically modified crops represent a mean of securing stable food sources, capable of meeting the substantial demand.

Regardless of which side you agree with, the coffee community isn’t immune to the genetic engineering controversy. For those wishing to refrain from consuming modified beans, organic coffee is a good alternative. As for me, I’ll certainly be reading my coffee labels more closely from here on out…perhaps it’s time to make the switch to those Whole Latte Love certified organic beans.

To Become Decaffeinated - Part One To Become Decaffeinated - Part Two