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Cardboard tasting tomatoes? Cutting edge genetic breeding to the rescue

| February 17, 2015
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

At Oregon State University (OSU), Oregon’s only land-grant university, Jim Myers is quietly pursuing some of the most exciting vegetable breeding projects on the West Coast.

Myers is the chair of vegetable breeding and genetics at OSU’s Department of Horticulture, and the chief architect behind the open-pollinated Indigo Rose tomato. The product of a cross between cultivated tomatoes and wild lines from the Galapagos and Central America, the Indigo line is unmistakable thanks to its vivid purple color.

The Indigo project was started with the intention of making tomatoes—by some estimates the second-most frequently consumed vegetable in the nation—more nutritious. Myers recounts how Carl Jones, a graduate student, “noticed that there were some tomatoes in the genetic stock collection maintained at UC Davis with a purple color at about the same time people recognized anthocyanins as a nutrition pigment. Our first paper got a fair amount of press, but the results were disappointing because expression wasn’t very high in initial attempts. But one combination of strains did produce an intensification of the pigment, which eventually became Indigo Rose.”

Because Indigo Rose is an open-pollinated tomato, its genetic material is available for anybody to grow, breed, and experiment with.

Open-pollinated plants and seed breeding have the potential to shape the future of our food system in a profound way by helping growers adapt gracefully to changes in our economy and climate while improving the flavor and nutrition of the foods we all eat.

Read full, original article: A Better Tomato, A Better Tomorrow

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