A genetically modified purple tomato that is richer in antioxidants and that is tastier than the normal variety. This is what scientists have been working on and what have been able to produce.

tomato plantThe tomatoes were genetically modified by researchers at the John Innes Centre in Norfolk UK.

They have discovered that a specific compound is able to make the difference in the creation of a type of tomato that is tastier that lasts longer and that contains anti oxidants. The substance used are called anthocyanin which are natural pigments found in flowers and plants, responsible for many of the blue reds and purple found in nature, this also increases the level of antioxidants.

The idea was to create a super-tomato that was rich in anti oxidants and could be a valuable source to fight cancer. At a later stage the researchers found that the fruit slowed down its maturation process which means that the shelf life of a tomato doubled to 48 days. Post-harvest losses due to rotting are a big problem for producers, processors and distributors. Increasing its shelf life makes a big difference.

Today most tomatoes are picked early when they are still green and induce them to ripen artificially with ethylene. The drawback to this method is that it does not have time to develop its flavour and aroma. That is why it is always better to choose tomatoes that are grown locally. In these case purple gm tomatoes  anthocyanins are found to slow down the ripening process that leads  tomatoes to go soft and mould. This means that they can be picked up when they are ripe by therefore preventing the fruit from loosing its flavour.

The tomatoes were modified by using two genes from the Snapdragon, which awakes a set of dormant genes in the tomato causing them to produce anthocyanin which is a pigment that can be found in nature and is the origin of colour in flowers. This also increases the level of lycopene which is an important antioxidant, the benefits of Lycopene have been studied for many years by scientists and it has been shown to be beneficial to fight cancer. Other studies have shown that Lycopene, if taken regularly helps reduce stress and may be used to complement therapies.

The researchers hope to make the tomato juice commercially available in the US in a few years and in other countries at a later stage.