Science News

Purple Tomatoes

Thu, 30th Jan 2014

Dave Ansell, Ginny Smith

Part of the shows Purple Tomatoes and Nanosized Science

Purple tomatoes might soon be making their way onto our dinner plates as the Tomatogenetically modified fruit is currently being mass produced in Canada. The tomatoes which contain anthocyanin compounds normally found in deeply coloured berries are hoped to place the potential health benefits of blueberries and cranberries in a more affordable crop. To find out more, here’s your Quickfire Science on genetically modified health foods with Dave Ansell and Ginny Smith….

- Genetic modification allows scientists to select genes which code for certain beneficial traits from one organism, and add then them to another.

- It is similar to, but much faster than, the traditional practice of cross breeding certain plants to improve a farmer’s harvest.

- Some people worry that GM food is ‘not natural’ and therefore not safe, but no studies have yet found this to be true.

- Most GM crops have been designed to increase yield or make them more resistant to herbicides, or disease, but some, have been designed to give health benefits

- One example is Golden Rice, which is fortified with pro-vitamin A, which the body converts into Vitamin A

- Over a million children a year in developing countries die because of Vitamin A deficiency, with many more being left blind.

- Golden rice could help prevent this, but regulations and fears about its safety have delayed its introduction.

- Now, scientists in the John Innes Centre, Norwich have genetically-modified a purple tomato, which contains the same anti-oxidents present in blueberries

- Mice with cancer fed these tomatoes lived 30% longer than those fed on normal, red tomatoes, and they may also have anti-inflammatory properties.

- But, UK regulations mean the tomatoes have to be grown in Canada, where regulations test the safety of the food as it will be eaten, not the process of developing it.

- The seedless juice can then be shipped back to the UK for trials. Because it is seedless there is no risk of the plant escaping into the wild, so it bypasses British regulations.

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