Genetically modified PURPLE tomatoes that produce 10 times more antioxidants will hit the market
- The ‘super tomato’ was designed with two genes from a snapdragon flower
- The genes contain anthocyanins that have health-promoting benefits
- The genes also change the traditional red of a tomato to dark purple
- Studies showed cancer-affected mice lived 30 percent longer
- The gene has hacked fruit, US approval only and will be available for purchase soon
A genetically modified purple tomato, designed to contain 10 times more antioxidants than the traditional fruit, helped cancerous swollen mice live 30 percent longer in studies, and now the gene-hacked food is ready to hit the U.S. market.
Developed by researchers at Norfolk Plant Sciences, the “super tomato” is crossed with genes from snapdragon flowers to add a high dose of anthocyanins, which have antidiabetic, cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory and other health-protecting benefits.
The purple tomato has been under review by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for nearly 15 years, but was approved earlier this month at an event marking the first U.S. approval for a genetically modified product on U.S. to cultivate soil.
The Norfolk Plant Science team plans to sell the gene-hacked seeds first to home growers, who they say will feed their tomatoes directly to consumers to get feedback to develop other products, Cathie Martin, a plant biologist and co-founder of the company, told New Atlas.
Genetically modified purple tomatoes are the first gene-hacked plants to gain regulatory approval. Concerned scientists plan to send seeds from home growers first
The genetically modified tomato was first developed in 2008, when Martin and her co-founder Jonathan Jones added two genes from a snapdragon flower to produce the dark purple color.
The signature hue is created by antioxidant pigments also found in blackberries and cranberries, known as anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins are chemicals called flavonoids that suck up potentially harmful oxygen molecules in the body.
Although naturally produced by tomato plants, they normally only occur in the leaves.
The British scientists transferred the snapdragon’s genes with specially adapted bacteria and then turned them ‘on’ in the tomato.
The purple tomatoes are designed with snapdragon flower genes, which not only gives the fruit its purple color, but also packs it with more antioxidants
Scientists have been growing the ‘super tomato’ since 2008 and can now share them with the US market
“Anthocyanins accumulated in tomatoes at higher levels than anything previously reported for metabolic engineering in both the skin and pulp,” the team shared in a 2008 press release.
And then the team tested the purple tomato to make sure it had health benefits.
In the study, the genetically modified tomato was fed to cancer-riddled mice and then another group of mice with the disease were fed traditional tomatoes.
And the mice fed the purple tomato lived an average of 30 percent longer than the mice fed the traditional fruit.
However, this study was conducted in 2008 and it took until September 7, 2022 for the ‘super tomato’ to receive the green light from food regulators.
The team conducted studies in cancer-affected mice. One group got the purple tomatoes and another traditional tomatoes. Those who ate the gene-hacked fruit lived 30 percent longer
“We found that the plant is unlikely to pose an increased risk of plant pests compared to other cultivated tomatoes,” according to a USDA press release.
“That means that from a plant pest risk perspective, this plant can be safely grown and used in breeding in the United States.”
Martin and Jones are now working on the approval of the gene-hacked tomato in the UK.
“We are now one step closer to my dream of sharing healthy purple tomatoes with the many people who are excited to eat them,” Martin told New Atlas.
‘The bittersweet thing is that the tomatoes will be for sale in America and not in the UK. But on the plus side, by targeting home growers we are consumer oriented and we can get the feedback and interest needed to develop other products.”