Genetically Modified Purple Tomatoes: Antioxidant Goodness Or Too Weird To Eat?

Although it’s not entirely clear what exactly — if any — the added health benefits of antioxidants are, one thing that’s pretty clear is that consumers are going nuts for anything with labels touting ingredients with those antioxidizing powers. A new tomato genetically modified using an antioxidant pigment to make it purple is banking on those health-conscious consumers.

Looking at the lowly red tomato and you might just think, “This fresh produce is pretty good for me but couldn’t it be better? I mean, it’s red, unlike blueberries.”

Or at least that’s what scientists who’ve cultivated this new GM tomato were basing their tomato coloring on when they injected a dark pigment known as anthocyanin, which is the antioxidant in blueberries and other plants that gives berries that purple-y blue color.

Researchers developed the purple tomato in Britain and large-scale production has started in Canada, reports the BBC. Scientists pushing the strange fruit say it could improve the nutritional value of things like ketchup to tomato sauce. Because when’s the last time you ate an entire pizza with blueberry sauce?

“With these purple tomatoes you can get the same compounds that are present in blueberries and cranberries that give them their health benefits — but you can apply them to foods that people actually eat in significant amounts and are reasonably affordable,” one researcher explained.

Some might be familiar with darker tinged tomatoes already — I had a bunch of heirloom tomatoes that ranged from dark red to almost aubergine. But for the general public: can we learn to live with purple tomatoes and purple ketchup?

Genetically-modified purple tomatoes heading for shops