Will consumers accept the world’s first gene-edited tomato?

A University of Tsukuba researcher harvests genome-edited tomatoes in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture. Credit: Yomiuri Shimbun
A University of Tsukuba researcher harvests genome-edited tomatoes in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture. Credit: Yomiuri Shimbun

[Japanese startup Sanatech Seed’s] Sicilian Rouge High GABA tomato was developed using cutting edge CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology. It contains high levels of Gamma-AminoButyric Acid (GABA), an amino acid believed to aid relaxation and help lower blood pressure.

According to Shimpei Takeshita, president of Sanatech Seed and chief innovation officer of Pioneer EcoScience, the exclusive distributor of the tomato, it contains four to five times more GABA than a regular tomato.

“This tomato represents an easy and realistic way in which consumers can improve their daily diet,” he told delegates during a session on how to breed better tomatoes at this year’s Global Tomato Congress.

Takeshita said the reason for choosing both the Sicilian Rouge variety and the GABA trait was their high level of acceptance by consumers.

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There have been widespread marketing campaigns in Japan to educate consumers about the difference between GMOs and gene-edited crops, so there is a higher level of understanding and acceptance of these products than in other parts of the world.

Sanatech Seeds plans to introduce Sicilian Rouge High GABA tomatoes through the home gardening channel.

“The seedlings will be distributed free of charge to home gardeners and if people like the product they will hopefully share their experience and help spread the word,” Takeshita said.

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