The trouble with tomatoes

Quick! Which has more genes: humans or tomatoes?

If you said humans, you’d be forgiven. And wrong. But possibly onto a deeper insight into people.

In a story published in Spirit magazine, the surprisingly well-written in-flight magazine of Southwest Airlines, an international team of plant geneticists discovered that tomatoes have about 6,760 more genes than humans.

This genetic imbalance isn’t a run-up to the real-world re-creation of “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” but rather a result of the decidedly sedentary lifestyle of the fruit that lawyers turned into a veggie. According to Jim Giovannoni, a Cornell University researcher on the tomato genome project: 

“It’s important to remember that plants are stuck where they are. Humans have the ability to move away from things that might harm us. Plants have to respond to pathogens, cold, heat, and lack of water in the context of not moving. As a result, they may need more genes to facilitate more complex responses to protect themselves.”

When I first read this in Spirit, I was flying home from a series of speaking engagements in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Travel-weary and full of post-event to-dos, this tomato truth nearly got pushed out of my head.

Yet the more I thought about this story, it struck me that there’s a parallel with human behavior here.

The case could be made that the more sedentary the person or corporation becomes, the more they’re apt to institute more complex rules and adaptive behaviors as a way to protect themselves against growth and evolution.

The more married we are to our station in life or the market, the more excuses and defenses we mount to justify our inactivity. We add more rules, more lines of genetic “code” if you will, into our organism in order to hold onto our little patch of earth. And while we marvel at the complexity of the system, it still belongs to a tomato.

So take a look at your rules, your structure, the DNA upon which you’ve built your company and yourself.

Do they encourage movement?

Or will they make you plump, ripe, and ready to become someone else’s lunch?

Andy Janning

Andy Janning

Andy Janning is the author of the books Heroes, Villains, and Drunk Old Men and The Breast Cancer Portrait Project, an 8-time state and national award winner for overall excellence ... Web: Details