Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, January 30, 2014


"I can't stress enough how enlightened the Canadian regulatory process towards these types of [genetically modified] foods is -- it has truly been fantastic."
"There is a fear of the unknown in the U.K. I think people here viewed genetically modified food as a new technology that wasn't controlled enough to be able to say for certain that there were no risks associated with it, and I think the traits that were originally engineered for in plants, such as herbicide resistance or insect resistance, didn't offer consumers anything tangible in terms of an advantage."
Professor Cathie Martin, plant biologist, John Innes Centre, Norwich, U.K.
Well I saw the thing comin' out of the sky
It had the one long horn, one big eye
I commenced to shakin' and I said "ooh-eee"
It looks like a purple eater to me  - Sheb Wooley

 Genetically modified purple tomato 'tastier than normal varieties'
Tests showed the shelf life of the tomatoes more than doubled from after genetic modification Photo: PA
Genetically modified purple tomatoes lovingly grown in a greenhouse in Leamington, Ontario in a regulatory climate in Canada that permits the presence of such fruits, bears no resemblance to the fear-climate of "Frankenfoods" prevailing throughout Europe where the regulatory climate is fraught with suspicion. For this British plant biologist, what she sees as a biologically enlightened attitude toward the science of genetic manipulation represents a breath of fresh air.

Not that there aren't an abundance of environmental, green, GMO-averse-horror-struck groups of determined activists in Canada shrieking with dismay at the proliferation of GMO corn and corn products everywhere they look, forever on the lookout for what they consider these dreadful aberrations on the food scene that will never pass muster for their dinnerplates. But that's another story altogether...other than the fact that GMO-avoidance among certain groups is universal.

With so many naturally endowed tomato varieties on the market, people will say, why introduce of all things, a purple tomato? Before addressing that question, how about contemplating the fact that most of the tomato varieties available on supermarket shelves today have undergone some type of bioscientific interference to make them what they are today, from producing sweeter specimens, to those hardy enough to travel long distances, and any number of alterations in between.

Through actually producing tomatoes that have undergone genetic splicing and other kinds of manipulation for the introduction of traits and supplemental nutritional benefits, plant scientists have simply sped up what nature herself does through recombinant DNA; in nature's way to enhance adaptation to environmental stressors, in humankind's fiddling to add nutrients for human consumption.

As to the matter of why purple tomatoes? Well, as nutritious and full of vitamins and minerals bright orange/red tomatoes are, purple varieties are even more so. A substance named anthocyanins is found in the skins of fruits with purple colour; plums, blueberries, blackberries, eggplants, for example. Mice on a diet of genetically modified purple tomatoes were found through tests to live 30% longer than those fed red tomatoes.

The purple variety as well, has been found to contain anti-inflammatory properties. The European Union is loathe to approve genetically modified food crops, and has held back from doing so for a decade and a half. European public opinion polls validate huge public opposition to genetically modified foods. The hypothesis is that the mad cow outbreak of the 1990s led to that public fear, although the dread disease resulted from feeding livestock offal from dead animals.

Professor Martin is delighted to have reached a partnership agreement enabling her purple tomato seeds to be grown in a huge greenhouse is Leamington, with New Energy Farms. "The farm is covered in snow at the moment so you can't really see much of it. What we have found, actually, is that there is a lot of research in [British] universities where there is really interesting products being developed that haven't been taken to market -- and so we are looking at taking that final step", explained Paul Carver, the company's CEO.

Human medical trials are next on the agenda once the Leamington crop has been harvested and transformed into purple tomato juice. Since that juice is a seedless extract, it will bypass GM environmental regulations when shipped to the UK since a seedless product is not capable of reproducing, and therefore the risk of 'contamination' of the environment is absent.

The juice product is destined for the United Kingdom for testing. A group of people has been enlisted who are at risk of cardiovascular disease. Presumably the results will further enhance the tenuous position of the purple tomato on the future marketplace shelf space as a fruit with special health enhancing properties. A North American launch is tentatively planned in the next two or three years.

That in itself will represent an interesting experience in general uptake.

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