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World’s First GMO Purple Tomato Approved For U.S. Sales
A new genetically modified tomato has been approved by the USDA for sale in the United States. It will stand out on store shelves for one clear reason - the tomato is deep purple.
This tomato owes its color to genes from snapdragons incorporated into its DNA. This triggers the fruit to produce more anthocyanin, creating a deep purple hue.
This distinctive fruit was developed over the past 14 years by a team of scientists, including Professor Cathie Martin of the University of East Anglia. Their reasoning for its color is multi-faceted. “Purple tomatoes are rich in anthocyanin pigments which are also present in many ‘superfruits’ like blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries,” says Professor Martin.
The team’s goal, in part, was to create a fruit that maximized these health compounds for humans. Martin explains, “When we undertook intervention studies in 2008 with cancer-prone mice, the mice lived 30 percent longer on the purple tomato-supplemented diet than the red tomato-supplemented diet or a standard diet.” Americans’ love for tomatoes made them an obvious choice to ensure the result would actually get eaten.
Further research in 2013 revealed that these purple tomatoes had double the shelf life of standard red fruit. This is because anthocyanins help to delay over-ripening and reduce the fruit’s susceptibility to fungus attack post-harvest.
The bright color also attracts pollinators, which helps ensure reproductive success for the species. Tastewise, the team claims they are indistinguishable from standard red ones.
Martin believes shoppers should keep an open mind with this new tomato. “We want to give consumers a choice. If they’re fearful of eating them, then no one will force them on consumers, but if they would like to try them, then we hope to offer people that choice as well,” she explains.
U.S. shoppers in test markets can expect to see Martin’s purple tomato on store shelves before the end of 2023.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Professor Cathie Martin (cathie.martin@jic.ac.uk).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #3