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U.S. regulators approve GM purple tomatoes

Posting time:2023-03-26 07:10:54

U.S. regulators approve GM purple tomatoes

After more than a decade in development, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has deemed a nutrient-fortified purple tomato safe to grow. The tomato has been genetically edited to produce nine times more antioxidants than the original variety. Back in 2008, a study published in Nature Biotechnology reported a gene-edited tomato that produced large amounts of antioxidants called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are found naturally in a number of foods, such as blueberries and red cabbage. They are responsible for the purple pigment in these foods and have been linked to various health benefits, like reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Some tomatoes with natural purple skins do have low levels of anthocyanins, but some food scientists wonder if some genetic tweaking could increase these levels. For this, the researchers extracted two genes from another plant, nightshade, and added them to a purple tomato. These genes expanded the plant's ability to produce anthocyanins, which in turn resulted in a unique, rich purple-fleshed tomato. The 2008 study tested the health effects of this anthocyanin-boosted tomato on mice engineered to be cancer patients. The results showed that the mice fed the supplemented purple tomatoes lived 30 percent longer than those fed the normal diet. Plant biologist Cathie Martin said in 2008: "This is the first example of metabolic engineering that offers the potential to reduce the impact of chronic disease through diet to promote health. It is certainly the first to truly offer the potential for all consumers An example of a GMO [GMO] trait of interest." After a lengthy regulatory process, GM purple tomatoes are now one step closer to the market after the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) ticked approval. This authorization means that the genetically modified plant is no longer strictly regulated that restricts where and how it is grown. It can be safely grown anywhere in the United States like other permitted crops. "When Cathie and I founded NPS (Norwich Plant Sciences) nearly 15 years ago to bring the health-promoting GM purple tomato invented in the UK to market, we never thought it would take this long to get regulatory approval. It was a red letter day for crop improvement, and the USDA approved a beneficial product after scrutinizing the dossier of detailed information describing its properties," said Jonathan Jones. He and Martin have been working together for over a decade on the commercialization of the plant. Over the past few years, scientists have explored some uses for enhanced tomatoes. Scientists have initially focused on producing an anthocyanin-rich tomato juice that could be tested in a clinical setting on patients with cancer or cardiovascular disease. However, the product still faces numerous testing and regulatory hurdles before it can enter the market. So Martin and Jones' first step will be to sell the seeds of these purple tomatoes to home growers. The U.S. approval marks the first place in the world to allow the cultivation of genetically modified products. Martin and Jones hope the tomatoes will be approved in the UK soon. "We are now one step closer to my dream of sharing healthy purple tomatoes with many people and getting them excited to eat. Bittersweet, these tomatoes will be sold in the US, not the UK as well . But the upside is that by focusing on the home grower, we will be consumer oriented and we will be able to get the feedback and interest we need to develop other products," Martin said.

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