The Quest to Design a Healthier Tomato a New Type of Tomato Has High Levels of Resveratrol, Which Some Research Has Linked to Fighting Cancer.

— Written By

Lila Shapiro
Senior Staff Reporter, The Huffington Post

Last week, researchers in the United Kingdom announced that they’d developed a genetically modified tomato with the potential to help protect consumers from cancer. The tomato, described in a new paper published in Nature — and not yet available to the public — is among what researchers call the second generation of genetically modified foods. The first generation was designed to help farmers grow bigger and more robust plants. Now, scientists are trying to improve our health.

A Pew survey released in January showed that although 88 percent of scientists say genetically modified foods are safe to eat, 57 percent of the American public disagrees. Cathie Martin, who led the study at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, hopes these tomatoes will help persuade a skeptical public that some genetically modified crops are, in fact, not only safe to consume, but actually good for you. They contain a variety of health-boosting compounds including resveratrol, which some research suggests can fight cancer.

We caught up with Martin this week to talk about her research and why she thinks that we’re wrong to be worried about all genetically modified fruits and vegetables.

Why focus on tomatoes?
They are consumed very widely and therefore represent a way that a nutritionally improved crop could reach a large number of consumers.

Why is this new variety of tomatoes so good for us?

The new varieties that we have just reported have not yet been tested for their health benefits. However, one line contains high levels of resveratrol, which has been reported to protect against cancer. Normally this compound is available in the diet only from red wine or peanut products. One of our tomatoes contains the equivalent levels of resveratrol as in 50 bottles of red wine. We are currently undertaking tests to see whether these tomatoes offer [protection to the heart] in preclinical studies.

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