Scientists Hope Genetically Modified Tomatoes Can Help Fight Disease
Genetically modified foods create plenty of debate, but a team of UK scientists are hoping they can turn some of those negative attitudes around after using genetic modification to create tomatoes beefed up with absurd amounts of natural disease-fighting compounds.
These tomatoes are described as having “industrial quantities” of antioxidants that can help ward off illnesses like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. In one specific breed, scientists were able to grow single tomatoes that contain 50 times more resveratrol than is found in a bottle of red wine. Using the same technique, another type of tomato had as much genistein, a compound found in soybeans that may help prevent breast cancer, as 2.5 kilograms of tofu, according to the Mirror.
The researchers decided to target tomatoes for their project because they are a cheap, high-yield crop that is easy to grow. Obtaining these compounds through their natural sources or synthesizing them artificially can prove to be far more troublesome. “Medicinal plants with high value are often difficult to grow and manage, and need very long cultivation times to produce the desired compounds,” said Dr. Yang Zhang, co-author of the study published in the journal Nature Communications. “Our research provides a fantastic platform to quickly produce these valuable medicinal compounds in tomatoes. Target compounds could be purified directly from tomato juice.”
However, before you start getting excited about a cancer-fighting marinara sauce, keep in mind that the research is more about creating an “effective production system” for these compounds than turning tomatoes into the next over-the-top superfood. And as ITV points out, even if Brits wanted to chow down, these GM tomatoes “can't be eaten yet though, due to strict EU rules.”
Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t dream of the world’s healthiest pizza. That’s some GMO work people could probably get behind.