WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved a new variety of genetically modified purple tomatoes for human consumption.
A team of researchers at U.K.-based Norfolk Plant Sciences developed this peculiar fruit, saying it has more antioxidants and nutrients than the typical red variety. The team also claims their purple tomatoes may have a longer shelf life.
Antioxidants, found in other dark fruits like blueberries and blackberries, may reduce the risk of cancer, among other health benefits, researchers said. Although there are other purple tomatoes currently on the market, NPS said this variety is the first to offer "useful levels" of antioxidants.
"While it is possible to use nutritional supplements to increase the intake of these compounds, there is increasing evidence to show that they work much better when consumed within the foods in which they occur naturally," the NPS website says.
The team's findings were backed up by research conducted by Harvard University, where scientists found little evidence to support that taking antioxidant supplements results in positive health outcomes. However, researchers at Harvard noted that "one possible reason why many studies on antioxidant supplements do not show a health benefit is because antioxidants tend to work best in combination with other nutrients."
A paper published by the Journal of Nature Biotechnology in 2008 showed that NPS' purple tomatoes helped expand the lifespan of "cancer prone" mice by 30%. These early results, as well as further experimentation has researchers at NPS hopeful.
A paper published by the Journal of Nature Biotechnology in 2008 showed that eating NPS' purple tomatoes helped extend the lifespan of "cancer prone" mice by 30%. The result was a hopeful sign for the research team.
The next step for the purple prototypes is to receive the stamp of approval from the Food and Drug Administration before they can be sold at grocery stores.