A genetically modified purple tomato that is tastier than normal varieties and can last for more than a month before going off has been invented by scientists. The GM tomato, which gains its unusual color from a natural pigment known as anthocyanin, could be picked and shipped later due to its longer shelf life, allowing more time for flavour to develop on the vine.
Tests showed the shelf life of the tomatoes more than doubled from an average of 21 to 48 days after genetic modification, and they were less likely to go mouldy after harvest.
The strain has also been found in earlier studies to fight cancer in mice due to its high levels of antioxidants, and scientists say its qualities could be replicated in other soft fruits like strawberries and raspberries.
The tomatoes were modified by scientists at the John Innes Centre in Norfolk to contain two genes from the snapdragon which “switch on” a set of dormant genes in the tomato, causing them to produce more anthocyanin.
The pigment occurs naturally in various plants and flowers, and is responsible for many of the blues, reds and purples seen in nature, but also ramps up levels of antioxidants.
The goal of the project was to produce fruit with higher antioxidant levels which could benefit health, and earlier studies have shown that they helped extend the lives of cancer-prone mice by 30 per cent.