Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the café; just as organics, shade-grown and Fair Trade seemed to be making sense in the weird world of coffee; here comes genetically modified coffee - Frankenbeans!
In traditional coffee harvesting, berries ripen at different times during the season (some people refer to this as "an act of nature"). Thus, the same plant will be picked over several times for its full yield, spreading the supply from any one region out over time and assuring a regular flow of beans during the harvest. Researchers at the University of Hawaii with nothing better to do have developed a way to ripen all berries on a coffee bush at the same time, through genetic engineering. By modifying the genetic code for ripening, the scientists have created a bean that will automatically ripen when hit with a chemical spray.
This will eliminate some labor on large plantations, thereby increasing plantation profits. It will also put more coffee on an already glutted market (thanks in part to the World Bank's development of Vietnam from an international coffee nobody to the second largest world supplier of cheap robusta beans at slave wages to farmers - so much for liberation), and push the world market price for coffee even lower than it already is (about the lowest in a decade!). So what is the point of this great leap forward in technology? It is a completely unnecessary dabbling in genetics for no valid economic, social or other reason.
Since we at Dean's Beans only buy certified organic coffees and only purchase beans from small farms and democratically run cooperatives using Fair Trade principles, it doesn't affect us directly. We vow never to purchase genetically modified coffee or any other ingredient in any of our products. It does, however, directly affect the welfare of tens of millions of small coffee farmers around the world who cannot afford to lose more income when the world market drops even further, and whose crops may become contaminated by pollen from the Frankenbeans (meaning that their berries wouldn't ripen at all without the patent license and sprays).
We urge all coffee consumers to stand up to this one. Let your local roaster and retailer know that you won't support genetically modified coffee with your purchases. You can email Dr. Frankenbeans himself (Dr. J. Stiles) to wake up and smell the coffee at firstname.lastname@example.org.