It tastes like a tomato, smells like a tomato, and even looks (mostly) like a tomato. There’s just one catch: It’s purple.
The USDA has approved a genetically modified purple tomato, clearing the path for the unique fruit to be sold in American stores next year.
“From a plant pest risk perspective, this plant may be safely grown and used in breeding,” the agency said in a September 7 news release. The approval moves the purple tomato one step closer to widespread distribution. In addition to its unique color, the purple tomato also has health benefits and a longer shelf life than garden variety red tomatoes, scientists say.
The tomato was developed by a team of scientists, including British biochemist Cathie Martin, who is a professor at the University of East Anglia and a project leader at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, England.
Martin worked on pigment production in flowers for over 20 years, she told CNN. “I wanted to start projects where we could look and see whether there were health benefits for this particular group of pigments,” she said.
The pigments that drew Martin’s interest are anthocyanins, which give blueberries, blackberries and eggplants their rich blue-purple hues. With funding from a German consortium, she decided to engineer tomatoes that were rich in anthocyanins, hoping to “increase the antioxidant capacity” of the fruits.
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