Breeding 18 December 2018

DNA dinner:
a personal menu that
restores your body

A plea for health over yield when it comes to breeding

Providing DNA information to get the most nutritious meal for your body. HZPC Sector Breeder Jeroen Bakker did this together with a group of 100 agri professionals. ‘As the agri sector, we organised the event to attract people’s attention to healthy food’, he says. ‘We believe food should play a bigger part in preventing and fighting diseases. The DNA dinner was the official launch of vers+, a programme by growers who want to grow fruit and vegetables for their health properties, rather than for the masses.’

photography – Daniel Verkijk / Innovation Quarter

Jeroen Bakker
Jeroen Bakker

Personal menu

Bakker: ‘As a scientist, I thought the experiment was very interesting, although I must admit that I felt a bit uncomfortable providing my DNA. Based on my DNA, it was determined how much fat, carbohydrates, proteins and which vitamins I need.

This was all taken into account in my personal menu. The dishes were very tasty, proving that it doesn’t take a great sacrifice to eat healthily.

There is quite a difference in nutritional values between different varieties

Inform consumers better

Consumers aren’t informed well enough when it comes to fruit and vegetables. We need to feed, not fill. We seem to have forgotten that vegetables supply all nutrients. We have to understand what our body needs in order to buy the right products and to prepare the most nutritious meals we can for our bodies. For instance, red beets are a source of iron and folic acid, whereas tomatoes contain lycopene. What a lot of people don’t know, is that there is quite a difference in nutritional values between different varieties of fruit and vegetables. With vers+ we want to classify those varieties that have an increased nutritional value as being better than average. In terms of potatoes, we see opportunities for Perupas; its higher levels of carotenoids and anthocyanins are both valuable antioxidants for humans.

Finance and health

Vers+ might sound a bit idealistic to some. Maybe it is. Our agri chain evolves around yield and financial benefit. What we don’t want, however, is green tomatoes waiting in cold storage until the best prices can be achieved, while they meanwhile lose all their nutrients. With this concept, we need to convince the whole chain and get every partner involved. Money is a driver for decisions, but I am convinced that consumers will be willing to pay a bit more if they get healthier food in return. Maybe we need to promote fruit and vegetables with different star ratings, like we do for meat, where the rating is based on the living conditions of the animal.

“Offer consumers a choice: cheaper or healthier food”

Next steps

Our next step is to find chain partners that see the same opportunities we see and who are willing to cooperate with us. HZPC has been involved in vers+ from the beginning, but we are breeders, not producers or suppliers. With breeding, there is a trade off with everything you do. If we breed new varieties that contain significantly more nutrients, something else has to give; those varieties might not be optimally resistant or they may result in a lower yield. If nobody in the chain buys those new varieties, we do not achieve anything. So, as an agri business, we have to cooperate to make vers+ a reality. In the long term, I sincerely hope we can create added value for healthier varieties of fruit and vegetables so that we can offer consumers a choice: cheaper or healthier food. The Western world needs to re-learn how to eat to stay healthy or to get healthy.’

Vers+ partners are Koppert Cress and Best Fresh Group, boosted by InnovationQuarter and supported by the municipality of Westland.

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