A GMO Purple Tomato Is Coming to Grocery Aisles. Will the US Bite? 

The purple tomato is considered a genetically-modified organism (GMO) because it’s made with recombinant DNA technology, in which genes from another organism are added.
Genetically Modified Purple Tomatoes

The purple tomato may mark a turning point for genetically modified foods in the US: Its engineered trait is meant to entice the shopper, not the farmer—specifically one interested in potential health benefits. “This is a trait that is mainly for the consumer,” says Bárbara Blanco-Ulate, a fruit biologist and professor at the University of California, Davis, who was not involved in developing the purple tomato. “People want food that is more nutritious and exciting.”

While purple-skinned tomatoes have been developed through conventional breeding, they don’t accumulate high levels of anthocyanins in the flesh. There’s evidence from other researchers that these compounds may help prevent cancerreduce inflammation, and protect against type 2 diabetes. And in a 2008 study, Martin and her team found that mice that were predisposed to developing cancer lived 30 percent longer on a diet supplemented with purple tomatoes than mice on a regular diet supplemented with normal red tomatoes. (Of course, animal studies don’t always translate to humans, and there are many lifestyle and genetic factors that may affect a person’s cancer risk.)

About a half-cup of purple tomatoes has as many anthocyanins as the same amount of blueberries, according to Martin. The average American consumes around 12.5 milligrams of these antioxidants per day, and Norfolk Plant Sciences estimates that a half-cup serving of its purple tomatoes contains 250 milligrams of anthocyanins.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has reviewed a new tomato from Norfolk Plant Sciences. The tomato was modified to alter its color and enhance its nutritional quality. We found the plant is unlikely to pose an increased plant pest risk compared to other cultivated tomatoes and is not subject to regulation under 7 CFR part 340. That means, from a plant pest risk perspective, this plant may be safely grown and used in breeding in the United States. Our response is based on information from Norfolk Plant Sciences and our:

—familiarity with tomato varieties,

—knowledge of the traits that alter fruit color and nutritional quality, and

—understanding of the modifications.