It is one of those sad truisms of modern life that tomatoes just don't taste like they used to. And this is not just the effect of ageing palates. Fortunately, there's a curve which deals with this and other such problems:
An international team of scientists claims finally to have cracked one of the most common consumer conundrums: why don’t tomatoes taste like they used to?
After conducting exhaustive taste tests of 100 tomato varieties and sequencing the genomes of nearly 400 varieties, researchers have found the 13 volatile compounds that give a tomato its inherent flavour.
By comparing traditional tomatoes with their modern descendants, the teams uncovered the properties that have been lost in the quest for improved size, yields and resistance.
The original problem was being able to grow lots and lots of tomatoes reliably, which would then keep for the requisite amount of time to get to people. OK, so we solved that and now we've got the information we need to breed back in flavour as well.
This is, when we think about it, just that Kuznets Curve kicking in again. Societies become more unequal then less as thy develop. Societies become dirtier then cleaner as they develop.
No, not because there is anything inevitable about this, but because richer people change their desires and spending habits to make it so. When we're all scrabbling for he next meal then the coal smoke which will kills us 30 years after our death can go hang. When we're well enough fed that we're likely to reach 60 then we'll try to make sure we don't cough our lungs up before then.
And when society's scarce resources are best used to make sure all children can have ketchup so they are, when we've achieved that then the work can start again on the sauce actually tasting of something.