These little fruits may look like mini aubergines and be a fantastic addition to an otherwise boring salad, but they are also nutrient rich and have been created by scientists to battle cancer and heart disease.
The pigmentation also found in blueberries, blackberries and cranberries is what makes the tomato purple. These pigments are packed full of anti-oxidants thought to be very potent in combating illnesses related with Western lifestyles.
In trials, scientists tested the genetically modified tomato on mice known to have a genetic predisposition to developing cancer. The mice fed with dried extracts of the tomato lived on average 182 days compared to 142 days for those not being fed on the substance.
The life giving tomato was created when Norwich scientists inserted genes extracted from the snapdragon plant. This plant regulates the production of anthocyanin pigments, which are known to ward off certain cancers, heart diseases and degenerative illnesses related to ageing.
The scientists discovered that anthocyanins gathered in high concentrations within the purple tomato, which make up 10 per cent of the dry weight of the plant’s ripened fruit.
Anthocyanins are normally contained within the leaves of the tomato plant, but the pigments are not present in the red fruit. However, with the addition of the regulating gene to the manufactured plant, an overproduction within the tomato was triggered and thus they turned a deep purple colour.
Professor Cathie Martin of the John Innes Centre in Norwich, where the research – published in the journal Nature Biotechnology – took place, advised that the GM tomato could allow for a larger choice of healthy foods for consumers. However, she admitted it may be some time before it went on sale in Britain due to the continuing opposition to genetically modified foods.
Biotechnology project manager Greg Jaffe of the Centre fo Science in the Public Interest has advised that the tomatoes would be required to undergo years of testing and regulatory processes before they get to be on our shelves.
Other opposition comes from conflicting scientists, who do not believe the health benefits of the GM purple tomato are great enough. Jeffrey Blumberg is the director if the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusets and he says for anthocyanins to benefit people would be a “big leap”.