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Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit

by Barry Estabrook

In Tomatoland, based on his James Beard Award-winning article, investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook reveals the huge human and environmental cost of the $10 billion fresh tomato industry. Fields are sprayed with 130 different herbicides and pesticides. Tomatoes are picked hard and green and artificially gassed until their skins acquire a marketable hue. Modern plant breeding has tripled yields, but produced fruits with a fraction of the calcium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C, and three times as much sodium as the tomatoes our parents enjoyed. And for what? The relentless drive for low costs has fostered a thriving modern-day slave trade in the United States. Estabrook traces the supermarket tomato from its birthplace in the deserts of Peru to the impoverished town of Immokalee, Florida, a.k.a. the tomato capital of the United States. He visits the laboratories of seedsmen trying to develop varieties that can withstand the rigors of agribusiness and still taste like a garden tomato, and then moves on to hydroponic growers, and eventually to a hillside field in Pennsylvania, where he meets an obsessed farmer who produces delectable tomatoes for the nation's top restaurants.

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