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Ingredient Spotlight: Purple Tomatoes!

Here at Opply, we love the colour purple. It is reflected in all our branding and brought to life by our team merch. It is no surprise that when our ingredient experts on the team read about the development of purple super tomato, we had to dive in to understand more about it and its future potential in the market…

An exciting UK food modification headline is preparing us for a sea of purple in our grocery stores. Norfolk Plant Sciences was established by Profs Jonathan Jones and Cathie Martin as the UK’s first GM crop company. Their research is focused on genetically amplifying health-giving compounds such as antioxidants in food-grade plants. The reason their name is all over the news is due to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to allow residents of the US to grow and buy with genetically modified crop seeds from Spring 2023. This is a prominent moment for GMO foods because this is the first US approval for a genetically modified product to be grown in American soil.

What is the purple tomato?

The purple tomato is a super tomato that was genetically engineered with a precise genetic “on switch” derived from the genes from an edible flower -– arabadopsis and antirrhinum. The result of this mutation increases its antioxidant content by 10 times the generic amount found in the traditional fruit. This can be attributed to the high levels of anthocyanin pigment mutated into the tomato.

A study conducted and published in Nature Biotechnology was done with cancer ridden mice with two test groups. One group was fed the purple tomato and the other was given traditional tomatoes. The group that ate the purple tomatoes lived an average of 30% longer than the ones who did not. The tomatoes gain their beautiful deep purple from a pigment class called anthocyanins. This pigment is one of the most broadly distributed pigment groups in the plant world that deliver blue, purple, violet, magenta, or red hues. Anthocyanins have anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and other heath protecting benefits. The chemical makeup of anthocyanins makes them sensitive to molecular oxygen. Upon consumption in the body, anthocyanins will also function as antioxidants to protect your body against oxidative damage.

Can we expect these super tomatoes in the UK soon?

In an interview with the Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL), Professor Martin shared that “The bittersweet thing is that the tomatoes will be on sale in America and not the UK as well. But the plus side is that by focusing on home growers we will be consumer-oriented, and we will be able to get feedback and interest needed to develop other products.” she said.

Professor Jonathan Jones of The Sainsbury Laboratory added: “When Cathie and I founded NPS nearly 15 years ago to bring to market health-promoting, genetically enhanced purple tomatoes, invented in the UK, we never thought it would take so long to obtain regulatory approval. This is a red-letter day for crop improvement, with approval of a beneficial product by USDA, after careful scrutiny of a detailed information dossier that describes its properties. We also look forward to sensible regulatory frameworks for such products in the UK, and effective methods to protect our major crops from disease, using genetics instead of chemistry.”

If Opply purple tomatoes have piqued your interest, you can read more about them here:

https://www.tsl.ac.uk/news/purple-gm-tomatoes-at-exciting-milestone-in-us
http://www.norfolkplantsciences.com/purple-tomatoes-and-health/

In the meantime, why not check out some of our other blog posts to find out about the weird and wonderful ingredients you can buy and sell with Opply? 

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