In the past, we sold yellow tomatoes at our farm market that were low acid. They tasted just like a regular tomato and were wonderful for customers that could not consume the more acidic red tomatoes. But, what if instead of just low acid tomatoes, we had tomatoes that could do more?
New Energy Farms in Leamington, Canada, has successfully raised and harvested tomatoes that have been genetically modified to fight cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Cathie Martin, plant biologist at the John Innes Centre, in Norwich, U.K, developed the tomatoes and asked New Energy Farms to try them out. The crop was successful and 2,000 litres of tomato juice at harvest. Dr. Martin’s tomatoes tasted the same. The only difference was the color:
The purple tomatoes have been genetically modified to have a higher amount of anthocyanins, an antioxidant found in blueberries, blackberries and plums. It’s what gives those fruit their purple colours. Anthocyanins are also said to fight cancer.
(Source: CBC News) That’s right – the tomatoes grow purple! Besides fighting cancer, the tomatoes were found to fight cardiovascular disease and have can act like an anti-inflammatory. In fact, Dr. Martin fed the purple tomatoes to mice with cancer and they ended up living 30% longer than mice eating only regular red tomatoes.
One of the biggest advantage is that the tomatoes can be grown just as cheaply as red tomatoes. That means the live saving properties of the tomatoes could be accessed by people who can’t always access the latest and greatest medical treatment.
The tomatoes are definitely not available for commercial growing or consumption just yet. For the study then, the tomatoes were grown in a controlled greenhouse and the plants were burned afterward to prevent cross pollination or voluntary plants.
Cancer and cardiovascular disease are definitely health problems that hit close to home for me. The idea that our food could be reinforced with lifesaving nutrition – like antioxidants – that we already know are safe and work is very exciting. I’m sure it will be quite a long time, if ever, that these tomatoes are available for commercial growth or in the local grocery store. But, it is definitely a great example that biotechnology holds an endless amount of potential!
You can learn more about Dr. Cathie Martin here.