Leave it to the Japanese to come up with technology-induced fruit
A Tokyo-based startup called Sanatech Seed Co. teamed up with scientists at the University of Tsukuba to develop a new variety of tomatoes with the help of CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology. The result was a Sicilian Rouge High GABA which contains high levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid that is believed to have lower blood pressure and help in relaxation.
The company was able to add high levels of GABA by removing an inhibitory domain within the tomato’s genome to enable the high production of GABA. According to Shimpei Takeshita, President of Sanatech Seed and Chief Innovation Officer of Pioneer EcoScience, the company was given permission to commercialize the genetically altered Sicilian Rouge GABA variety last December. The contract farmers had been growing them ever since and now these tomatoes are finally ready to hit the stores and become a useful product.
“At first we got mixed reactions to genome-edited foods, and we thought it would be difficult to bring them to market as they’re not fully understood by consumers,” Takeshita Tatsuo, chair of Sanatech Seed told NHK. “But the tomatoes earned a good reputation from those who took part in the cultivation trials.”
Sanatech Seed was granted permission to commercialize the new tomato by a Japanese health ministry committee on the condition that they ship each package with a sticker that says “improved using genome editing technology” so the consumer market knows what they are getting. Even though genome-edited plant varieties are as safe as the conventional methods used to enhance plants and are not like genetically modified foods, it’s still a safe practice to label the packages accordingly so if people have any reservations against them, they know well in advance.
Online orders for the Sicilian Rouge High GABA tomatoes have already been s tarted and a 3 kg box costs around 7500 yen or $68. Talk about high quality tomatoes…