23 Sep 2016

What's the Source?

by Helen Mason
What is a lemato? Is this one?
 Does use of the same or similar wording in more than one article about the same topic set your alarm bells ringing?

In 2013, I was working on Agricultural Inventions: At the Top of the Field, a science book for kids in grades 5 to 8. In my search for genetically modified foods I kept coming across references to the lemato. According to the sources, this is a cross between a lemon and a tomato.

One site talked about mixing a tomato and a lemon seed. Another discussed how the cross was made solely to test whether researchers could find a way to make a tomato smell like a lemon. An article for students talked about the health benefits of crossing an antioxidant such as a tomato with a fragrant citrus fruit such as the lemon.

Or this?
Almost all appeared with a picture similar to the one at the right from a Portuguese student web site. Some had one similar to the photo at the top. Another showed a fruit that was tomato at the bottom and lemon at the top, including the skin. The author claimed not to have used photo-shop. Really?

Several sites criticized the use of GM. Few referred to the original researchers. It was them I wanted to find—and fortunately I did.

Since the lemato was developed at Israel's Newe Ya'ar Research Centre and I don't read Hebrew, I researched SciTech news sites. The lemato is a tomato that includes a gene from a variety of lemon basil. Basil, that's the annual herb that's a member of the mint family and not a citrus fruit.

Would a pic like this draw you into an article about lematos?
So what's the message for online researchers? First, don't believe everything you hear or see on the Internet. Second, remember that many sites are like movie tabloids. Correct information might be present—but you have to get beyond the hype.

And no, I still haven't seen a lemato. But I suspect that it looks like a regular tomato. Researchers suggest that it has a different smell, however.

 Helen Mason's most recent books include What is Digital Entrepreneurship, Be an Active Citizen in Your Community, and Be an Active Citizen at Your School, all Crabtree, 2016.

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