After over a decade of research and development, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has finally approved a nutritionally enhanced purple tomato.
The gene-edited tomatoes can produce up to 10 times more antioxidants than other varieties, reported New Atlas.
In 2008, a study discussed a type of tomato that could be developed by gene editing to produce more antioxidants called anthocyanins.
These are naturally found in many vegetables and fruits like red cabbage and blueberries. They are the reason these foods have a purple pigment in them. Other than the colour they share, they also lead to a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease.
With some genetic tweaks, scientists were able to add higher levels of anthocyanin to the fruit by taking genes from a snapdragon plant.
To test the health benefits of the gene-edited fruit, in 2008, researchers fed it to mice engineered to develop cancer. Mice who were given the anthocyanin-boosted tomato lived 30% longer than the rest.
Plant biologist Cathie Martin called the effort the first example of metabolic engineering offering to promote health through diet.
“And certainly the first example of a GMO [genetically modified organism] with a trait that really offers a potential benefit for all consumers.”
The tomato is soon to enter the market after being approved by the USDA. It has been marked safe and can be grown anywhere in the US like any other crop.
Jonathan Jones, the co-founder of Norwich Plant Sciences said that he and Cathie never expected the regulatory approval to take that long when they started working on the purple tomato 15 years ago.
This approval also makes the US the first-ever country on the planet to allow the growth of genetically modified products.
The founders believe that the United Kingdom will be the next to approve.