The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has achieved a milestone after getting approval from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in a bid to grow genetically modified purple tomatoes anywhere across the United States. It has been reported that these purple tomatoes will be rich in nutrients and contain around 10 times more antioxidants as compared to the ones found normally. Regarding this, a study was also published in the journal Nature Biotechnology in 2008 that addressed the benefits of this gene-modified tomato and also stated the presence of a high volume of “anthocyanins,” a type of antioxidant.
Anthocyanins come with a lot of benefits for our health as they are subjected to reduce the risk of heart diseases and diabetes as well. Moreover, they are usually found in blueberries and cabbage. However, it should be noted that those tomatoes that come with a natural purple color contain a low level of anthocyanins which according to some scientists, can be increased by modifying them genetically. For this, they took two genes from a plant known as “the snapdragon” and mixed these genes into the naturally occurring purple tomatoes. As a result, the inclusion of this gene boosted the plant’s potential and it started reproducing purple tomatoes which are rich in nutrients.
You would be amazed to know that the 2008 research study tested this experiment on mice and they were fed with food containing these purple tomatoes rich in nutrients. It turned out that the mice who were given these purple tomatoes in their diet are subjected to live 30% longer as compared to those who were given other tomatoes. According to plant biologist Cathie Martin, “This is one of the first examples of metabolic engineering that offers the potential to promote health through diet by reducing the impact of chronic disease. And certainly, the first example of a GMO [genetically modified organism] with a trait that really offers a potential benefit for all consumers.”
On the other hand, Jonathan Jones, who works in the plant commercializing sector with Martin, said, “When Cathie and I founded NPS [Norwich Plant Sciences] nearly 15 years ago to bring to market health-promoting, genetically enhanced purple tomatoes, invented in the UK, we never thought it would take so long to obtain regulatory approval. This is a red-letter day for crop improvement, with approval of a beneficial product by USDA, after careful scrutiny of a detailed information dossier that describes its properties.”
Martin further said, “We are now one step closer to my dream of sharing healthy purple tomatoes with the many people excited to eat them. The bittersweet thing is that the tomatoes will be on sale in America and not the UK as well. But the plus side is that by focusing on home growers we will be consumer-oriented, and we will be able to get feedback and interest needed to develop other products.”