The Purple Tomato May Teach us to Love GMOS

This article originally appeared on Clean Eating

About half of U.S. adults – 51 percent – are wary of GMOs and believe they are unsafe to eat. But a new purple tomato, filled with potential cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory properties may change the public’s opinion.

A genetically-modified purple tomato has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), paving a path to consumers. The decision means that U.S. home growers may soon be able to purchase seeds and grow purple tomatoes.

Norfolk Plant Sciences (NPS) produced this purple tomato, altering the fruit’s genes to change its color, extend its shelf life, and improve nutritional quality. While the taste is indistinguishable from the red tomato, the NPS team says their purple tomatoes are nutritionally enhanced and rich in anthocyanin, a flavonoid known to combat cancer, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease. Plus, purple tomatoes last double the shelf life of traditional red tomatoes.

A purple tomato already exists, more commonly known as Indigo Rose. But on its website, NPS says the new purple tomato has been developed to produce the highest levels of anthocyanin and should be considered on the same superfood level as blueberries and blackberries. Seed Today states that the health-boosting compounds don’t accumulate in useful levels in the Indigo Rose’s skin.

NPS co-founder Cathie Martin started developing the purple tomato in 2008 and is overjoyed to see it finally pass through the USDA.“This is fantastic, I never thought I would see the day,” Martin tells the John Innes Centre. “We are now a step closer to my dream of sharing healthy purple tomatoes with the many people excited to eat them.”

The decision to allow purple tomatoes to be released to the public is a big step forward in independent science and small organizations, which, based on this victory, stand a chance to develop healthy products and compete in the mass market.

Because the tomato is considered GMO, NPS acknowledges there may be skeptics. On its website, NPS states:

“New ideas take a lot of time, data and experience to overcome rational fears and skepticism. Genetic engineering of food is no exception.”

NPS hopes that, with FDA approval, the purple tomato will make it to U.S. grocery stores as early as 2023.

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