Did ‘GMO Tomatoes’ Kill Juan Pedro Ramos?

Dawn Papple - Author

May 3 2017, Updated 5:28 a.m. ET

Did a genetically modified tomato kill Juan Pedro Ramos from Madrid? The story alleges that 31-year-old Juan Pedro Ramos died of anaphylaxis after eating tomatoes that had been genetically modified using fish genes. Medication, allegedly administered at a local hospital, was unable to stop the allergic reaction that Juan Pedro Ramos supposedly was dying from. The story circulating this week was from a reported alarmist news source called Don’t Comply.

No legitimate sources were linked in the article about the shocking death of a supposed unlucky Spaniard named Juan Pedro Ramos, who was famed to be the first ever human being to die from eating a GMO.

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“31-year-old Juan Pedro Ramos died from anaphylaxis shock after consuming tomatoes containing fish genes that triggered the deadly allergic reaction. Doctors of the Carlos III hospital in Madrid Spain have confirmed this in a press conference shortly after his death and autopsy. The young Spaniard’s health rapidly declined immediately following the severe allergic reaction. The drugs administered to counter the anaphylaxis were completely inefficient. The team of medical experts concluded the genetically modified tomatoes that the victim ate during his lunch break resulted in his demise.”

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While fact checking, one would not be immediately directed to any story on Snopes about Juan Pedro Ramos, but the original story appears right away. The original article, which had been shared over 22.9 thousand times as of Thursday and featuring the alleged first person to die from eating a GMO, was published on the satirical news site World News Daily Report, which features a disclaimer.

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“WNDR assumes however all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content. All characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle.”

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No less importantly, while tomatoes have long been a symbol for GMOs given that it was the first genetically modified food that hit the market in the United States, these transgenic tomatoes have been on the market for nearly two decades. Coined “FlavrSavr,” the genetically modified tomatoes didn’t contain the genes of a fish like the fishy tomato allegedly eaten by Ramos was said to contain, but instead contained a deactivated gene that made it so that the fruit of the tomato plant could not soften. According to GMO Compass, the GM tomato was no longer capable of producing the tomato softening enzyme polygalacturonase. Additionally, according to the same GMO watch group, genetically modified tomatoes are not approved in Europe and earlier applications for licensing have been withdrawn by the producers.

So, while GMOs aren’t off the hook in many nations, nor with American consumers, the story of Juan Pedro Ramos dying from an allergic reaction to a genetically fishy tomato is simply an urban legend set into motion by a satirical news site.

[Photo adapted from Don’t Comply]


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