Back in 2008, a study was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology about a genetically modified purple tomato to produce high volumes of anthocyanins. But, what are Anthocyanins? Anthocyanins are a kind of antioxidant found in such foods as blueberries and red cabbage. They give these foods the color purple and have several health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Actually, some types of tomato with naturally purple skins contain low levels of anthocyanins, as well. However, some scientists wondered if they could increase those levels with a couple of genetic modifications. So, they took two genes from another plant called the snapdragon and added them to a type of purple tomato. As a result, the obtained tomatoes with rich purple color turned out to have 10 times more antioxidants than the already existing types.
Over the years, the scientists explored a number of uses for this purple tomato. They initially have focused on producing an anthocyanin- rich tomato juice to test for patients with cancer or cardiovascular disease. So, they tested the tomato on mice to see whether it would affect the possibility of their developing cancer. According to the result, the mice fed on a diet based on purple tomatoes lived 30% longer than the mice fed a regular diet.
Plant biologist Cathie Martin states that “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.”
After more than a decade of research and experiments, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has finally given permission to grow this genetically modified purple tomato. However, it still requires further testing before it reaches the market.
Here is a brief document on the harvest, benefits, and the future of this genetically modified purple tomatoes.
For more information: Norfolk Plant Sciences