GM tomatoes are coming back, but this time they’re purple

GM tomatoes are coming back, but this time they’re purple

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) still have an image problem when it comes to food. But attitudes are evolving, insists Norfolk Healthy Produce, a startup on a mission to change hearts and minds, one purple tomato at a time.

This is not the first rodeo for GM tomatoes, acknowledges Norfolk president and CEO Dr. Nathan Pumplin, who is gearing up to launch tomatoes genetically engineered to produce high levels of health-promoting anthocyanins in the US later this year.

First came the FLAVR SAVR tomato, which biotech company Calgene engineered for increased shelf-life and fungal resistance. FLAVR SAVR hit the US market in 1994 but disappeared in 1997 after Calgene was acquired by Monsanto.

While anti-GMO sentiment has been blamed for the FLAVR SAVR’s rapid demise, says Pumplin, supply chain challenges were largely at fault (notably, the tomatoes were too soft to be reliably machine-picked and transported if harvested ripe).

“Calgene tried to launch very quickly and build a supply chain from scratch within a year with varieties that weren’t optimal for the growing locations or product categories they were going into,” claims Pumplin.

In the UK, he notes, cans of GM tomato puree [produced under license by Zeneca with FLAVR SAVR tomatoes] performed well in leading supermarkets in the mid-1990s. However, the tide turned in 1998 when retailers soured on GMOs amid a media frenzy around “Frankenstein Foods” stoked in part by controversial comments about the health risks of GM potatoes from Rowett Institute scientist Dr. Arpad Pusztai. By 1999, the product had been ditched.

GM produce that delivers a clear consumer benefit

According to Pumplin, who is planning a limited-scale launch of purple tomatoes later this year, “I think more people are beginning to see the huge potential of genetic engineering to impact sustainability, the nutritional quality of our food, and food security.

Continue reading.

Image by on Freepik



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