The gorgeous red tomatoes, piled high in the hot West African sunshine, suggested a huge success.
Just two years after the region’s economically vital crop was decimated by a fly-borne virus, university experts found a gene that conferred resistance and bred it into the tomato seeds.
The science was so efficient that the tomatoes quickly overwhelmed the local canning facility in Mali’s capital, Bamako. But in the same two years, European buyers found other providers. Mounds of tomatoes, and with them the labor of numerous poor African villagers, sat and rotted.