GM-omato: It’s a plum! It’s a grape! It’s neither! Plant scientists at the John Innes Centre in the UK have developed a purple tomato. That’s right, purple (remember the Heinz purple ketchup of the early 2000s?).
The goal of the project was to create a tomato high in anthocyanins, the antioxidant-rich pigment found in blueberries.
With recent USDA approval, the purple produce is expected to hit American shelves in 2023. The question remains—will consumers bite?
Oh snap(dragon)! The tomato gets its purple hue and anthocyanins from the addition of genes from the snapdragon flower. There is some scientific evidence that anthocyanins bring health benefits, including:
This is due, at least in part, to anthocyanins’ antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. There is still the question of how much anthocyanin one would need to consume in order to see these benefits.
Where this goes: Time will tell on the success of the purple tomato. This is not the first GMO tomato to hit the market.
That award goes to the Flavr Savr in 1994. Designed for long shelf life, the Flavr Savr was eventually pulled from shelves due to high production and distribution costs.