31 May 2000
GM tomato claimed as panacea

By FWi staff

A GENETICALLY modified tomato packed with vitamin A could ward off cancer, heart disease and blindness, it is claimed.

This is the latest in a series of initiatives where GM technology has been used to try to improve health.

Scientists recently said GM broccoli may prevent colon cancer, and it was announced that Third World farmers will be given free access to vitamin A-rich rice.

Tomatoes rich in beta-carotene have been developed by Professor Peter Bramley at the University of London, along with colleagues in Japan and Germany.

Beta-carotene is turned by the body into vitamin A, which is thought to be crucial in preventing serious disease, reports BBC Online.

Increasing the amount of beta-carotene in food was found to be more efficient than taking supplements, said researchers.

The genetically modified tomatoes developed by Prof Bramley contain up to 3.5 times the normal levels of beta-carotene,

Vitamin A has been linked to preventing cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration – an eye condition that can lead to blindness.

Biotech company AstraZeneca recently struck a deal with Professor Ingo Potrykus, the inventor of “golden rice” to give Third World farmers free access to the vitamin A packed GM rice.

The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) has estimated that extra Vitamin A could prevent the deaths of between 1m and 2m children between one and four each year.

And a team at the John Innes Centre in Norwich cross-bred conventional broccoli with a wild Sicilian relative to create “super broccoli” to fight colon cancer.

The new variety contains up to 100-times more of a chemical which helps neutralise cancer-causing substances in the gut than ordinary broccoli.