Hydroponic or “Frankenstein” Tomatoes?

Hydroponic tomatoes have finally arrived in Romania. A video from Antena 3 entitled “Pofta Buna la Otrava” (Good Appetite for Poison), describes how an entrepreneur from Reghin, Mures County, has grown, last year, nine huge tomato plants per square meter, the size of “tropical arbors.” The plants grew out of a special bed without soil. The seeds were treated with a special fungicide designed to resist disease, grew roots in a bed of cotton and other materials, and each root was fed by a tube. The abundant, perfect tomato crop was and is guaranteed all year long.

Why is it necessary to grow tomatoes without soil? As the video explained, such a crop would assure necessary quantities of food for an “overpopulated planet”—plants that grow tomatoes twelve months out of the year, over 500 tons annually, with no risk of crop loss to the grower.

Hydroponic tomatoes are nourished by a system of tubes feeding directly to the root of each embedded plant a mixture of water and nutrients necessary for accelerated plant growth.

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A plant grows naturally by extracting necessary nutrients from the soil. However, these plants are being fed continuously by a computer that calculates what it takes to keep the plants alive and to grow tomatoes as quickly as possible. A cocktail is mixed in the high-tech kitchen that includes calcium nitrate, potassium chloride, mono-potassium phosphate, potassium nitrate, potassium sulfate, magnesium sulfate, etc. The grower claims that the plant absorbs these chemicals and metabolizes them into other substances that are not harmful to humans.

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Dan Borotea, a former engineer turned entrepreneur, claims that his tomatoes are beautiful and perfect, and his plants are disease-free.

Another grower, Andrei Barbu, selects his seeds from organic tomatoes and dries them out. To begin the growing season, Barbu painstakingly drops a few seeds into tiny squares in seedling trays filled with soil. His seeds are small and yellow in color while the hydroponic seeds are much larger and green, treated with the special fungicide. Barbu’s seeds are going to be planted in dirt, watered, and a plant will grow the natural way without chemicals. He is dependent on good weather and never knows when a disease may attack his beautiful three week-old tomato plants, which are then planted outside the nursery.

In the new buzzworld of “sustainable plant protection for high quality,” Romania was the first country that authorized Initium products. Grape growers and tomato, potato, cucumber, and onion farmers added to their crops since 2010 the special fungicide called Enervin for grapes and Zampro for vegetables in order to speed production and fight late blight and downy mildew.

“Because of the very favorable environmental profile of Initium, the products were authorized in the record time of four years,” said Roland Ringel, Head of the Initium Global Development Project. “And in fact, Initium products are not only in high degree environmentally compatible, they are also very user-friendly – they dissolve rapidly and dust-free in water, thus saving time and ensuring extra safety.”

According to AgroNews, “BASF’s comprehensive range of sustainable crop protection solutions” also includes Cabrio Top, a multi-disease grape fungicide that will “more than double crop protection.”

“Initium-based products are currently available for more than 30 specialty crops, including grapes, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce and other vegetables, in more than 50 countries.”

Research must be conducted to determine if there are side-effects from Initium fungicides in humans who consume fruits and vegetables treated with Zampro, Enervin, or Cabrio Top.

Through hard labor, Barbu was able to deliver organic tomatoes to the markets in Bucharest for more than five years. An extremely rainy season in May and June of 2014 brought a fungus to his tomatoes and Barbu lost almost half of his crop. After the June rains, a dry August prevented many of his tomatoes from ripening. By then he lost two-thirds of what he had planted initially. The organic tomatoes were still fragrant, juicy, not filled with empty sacks, but also not perfect-looking. Small restaurants prefer Barbu’s organic tomatoes, even though organic tomatoes can cost as much as five times more than the hydroponic variety.

The difference is quite evident to gourmet chefs. The organic tomatoes are juicy, tasty, and fragrant, with thin skin, while the hydroponics have thick skin and are tasteless and dry. It is alleged that the content of lycopene is much diminished in hydroponic tomatoes, below 38 percent, while organic tomatoes have over 60 percent lycopene.

Are vitamins and minerals still present in the hydroponic tomatoes in the same naturally-occurring concentration? Could it be possible that they are no longer containing substances that might help fight certain diseases in humans?

Could it be possible that large manufacturers of chemicals have encouraged and promoted hydroponic and hybrid agriculture in order to maintain sales and profit margins? Could it be possible that the use of too many chemicals has caused the death of millions and billions of bees that naturally pollinate so many crops?

The planet does grow plenty of food. But if you listen to the merchants of doom and gloom of the United Nations, we are going to starve to death. They base their predictions on computer modeling of population explosion, which mimics Thomas R. Malthus’s 1798 prophecy that population growth would outstrip food supply.

And speaking of Malthusian predictions, the developed world population has a fertility rate problem but the third world does not. To address the need to feed a growing third world population, developed nations can and do produce more food which they export, sell, and, when needed, donate to needy and overpopulated underdeveloped nations.

It is not true that we are not growing enough food; there is certainly enough misinformation circulating under the guise of settled science based on computer modeling which has been proven wrong time and time again. We are having a distribution problem born by inadequate planning, improper delivery, and storage of food. Interference of third world governments exacerbates the problem when they allow donated food to rot, using it as a bargaining chip, instead of distributing it to those who need it.

Additionally, dictatorships prioritize spending on war machines instead of on food for their people. Wars that create refugees also create severe shortages of food and famine. Droughts and plant disease occurring naturally or through human mismanagement of water resources to protect an endangered species such as the delta smelt in St. Joaquin Valley, California, are also causes of potentially insufficient quantities of food. Last but not least, destroying infrastructure and the labor markets that support food production can have a devastating effect on domestic agriculture.

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