Purple tomatoes may finally reach the United States

Purple tomatoes may finally reach the United States

A small company has applied for approval in the United States to sell genetically modified tomatoes rich in the health-promoting pigments found in berries. Tomatoes were developed by a public research center in the UK and showed a 30% increase in life expectancy in lab mice.

Purple tomatoes genetically modified to be rich in beneficial pigments found in “superfoods” like blueberries could soon go on sale in the United States. A small company called Norfolk Planet Sciences applied for approval last year and hopes to gain approval. “We’re optimistic we’ll get the approvals we need,” Eric Ward, a consultant at Norfolk Plant Sciences, said during an online presentation on February 22. The company hopes to sell seeds to gardeners and supply fresh tomatoes and other tomato products to stores.

The purple tomato was created by Katie Martin at the John Innes Center in the UK. In 2008, his team reported that mice whose diet was supplemented with these purple tomatoes in a freeze-dried form lived nearly 30% longer than those on a standard diet or a diet supplemented with regular tomato powder. “The 30% longer life is amazing,” he said during the presentation, although of course the results of animal studies do not necessarily apply to people.

There are varieties of tomatoes with a purple peel, but transgenic purple tomatoes also have a purple flesh. They contain about 10 times more anthocyanins, which are antioxidant pigments. To achieve this, Martin added two plant genes: snapdragon (Antirrhinum) and one from Arabidopsis. The added genes are only active in the fruit, where they increase the activity of the machinery in the plant to produce anthocyanins.

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About the Author: Camelia Kirk

"Friendly zombie guru. Avid pop culture scholar. Freelance travel geek. Wannabe troublemaker. Coffee specialist."

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