GM purple tomatoes developed at John Innes Centre in Norwich

Flashback to 2010. Katharina Bulling at work in the lab at the John Innes Centre with Prof Cathie Martin. Pictured working on their purple tomatoes. 
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY Flashback to 2010. Katharina Bulling at work in the lab at the John Innes Centre with Prof Cathie Martin. Pictured working on their purple tomatoes. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Saturday, January 25, 2014
11:05 AM

Scientists at the John Innes Centre in Norwich have developed genetically modified purple tomatoes with added health benefits.

To send a link to this page to a friend, you must be logged in.

They are being grown at a 5000 sq ft glasshouse at New Energy Farms in Ontario, Canada and are now being harvested, for future research and to attract interest from private investors.

The glasshouse will yield enough tomatoes to produce 2000 litres of purple tomato juice.

It will be used to generate new research and industry collaborations and to start the process of seeking the regulatory authorisation needed to bring a commercial juice to market.

JIC’s Professor Cathie Martin said: “We want to explore a way for consumers to benefit from our discoveries, as we are finding there is a demand for the added health benefits.”

The colour of the tomatoes is derived from high levels of the pigment, anthocyanins, compounds normally found in blueberries, blackberries and other deeply coloured berries.

The purple tomatoes have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects compared to regular ones and to slow the progression of soft-tissue carcinoma in cancer-prone mice. They also have double the shelf life.

Paul Carver, chief executive officer of New Energy Farms, said: “The most amazing thing is the potential to supply an expensive compound from nature more economically to large markets for food, livestock feed, cosmetics, food colourings and even pharmaceuticals.”

The tomatoes and juice can be used to study the effects of a high anthocyanin diet on cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.

Other varieties, high in compounds such as resveratrol normally found in red wine, are already being used to develop skin care products in collaboration with Essex company Biodeb.

Bringing the juice to the food market will require regulatory approval and may be possible in as little as two years in North America.

Mr Carver said: “Our position in Canada is quite strong. The regulatory process and a vibrant market make a product like this globally competitive.

“In the future, more products like this with high-levels of compounds for human health will become available and on a much larger scale.”

The research so far has been funded by the EU and through the JIC’s strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

With Professor Jonathan Jones from The Sainsbury Laboratory, Professor Martin has formed the UK’s first GM crop spin-out company, Norfolk Plant Sciences, to explore the commercial potential of plants with increased levels of health-giving compounds.

7 comments

  • I can imagine Heston salivating over these in a Waitrose ad next year. 'Only' 30p .........each.

    Report this comment

    One Horse Town

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

  • The British Tomato Growers' Association has this to say about such developments: "Another proposed benefit of GM tomatoes would be to produce fruit with a higher nutrient content. This is an interesting option, but it is possible to do this by conventional means, such as the choice of variety and by harvesting and eating fruit when fully ripe. GM tomatoes have been produced with higher levels of beta-carotene, a potential advantage, but they may contain lower levels of lycopene, a distinct disadvantage. Purple tomatoes, containing elevated levels of anthocyanin, have also been produced but this ingredient is readily available in other foods, such as summer fruits and beetroot. The best advice is to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables with a range of complimentary beneficial ingredients. Having said that, tomatoes probably contain a wider range of these constituents than any other fresh food." There is absolutely no need for this GM tomato.

    Report this comment

    Roger Mainwood

    Sunday, January 26, 2014

  • I can imagine Heston salivating over these in a Waitrose ad next year. 'Only' 30p .........each.

    Report this comment

    One Horse Town

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

  • A little bit of healthy baboon's purple, mixed with the schock proof genes of a scorpion, add that to tomato genes and hey presto you have cornered the tomato market with a tomato that does not bruise on the shelf. Now thats what we waste hundreds of millions of taxpayers money on, for nothing in return, it is a socially responsible policy by our party politicians towards businesses who refuse to do anything else but GM, its keeping our genetic engineers busy and in good fettle. The crops they engineer contaminate organic crops and spread their dominant gene hazard to similar crops as well as to soil microbes who then spread it to other unrelated crops even.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

  • To alter the basic structure of a tomato plant by GM is obscene. The question is why? Please,please not he stock answer so beloved by the beloved MPs, " To feed the world." Whenever the word Sainsbury appears in connection with GM crops, therin lies the answer. Sainsbury is a word interchangeable with profit. The only reason for GM crops.

    Report this comment

    norman hall

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

  • YUK! More genetic pollution. I hope they clear it up afterwards.

    Report this comment

    Dave01

    Sunday, January 26, 2014

  • Fantastic!! Now try selling them, there is NO, repeat NO market for GM however it is pushed

    Report this comment

    Windless

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Norfolk Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 11°C

min temp: 8°C

Five-day forecast

loading...

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT