Research points to potential for commercial GM crops

Two recent developments suggest that commercial production of GM crops is not completely off the agenda.

Rothamsted Research has applied to Defra to conduct a field trial of brassica Camelina that has been genetically modified to produce omega-3 oils in seeds, which can then be used as a feed in fish farming as an alternative to wild-caught fish feed.

GM purple tomatoes developed at the John Innes Centre (JIC) are now being grown in Canada for future research and to attract interest from private investors in commercial production.

Tomatoes from the 200sq m glasshouse in Ontario will be turned into juice, which will also "start the process of seeking the regulatory authorisation needed to bring a commercial juice to market", according to JIC.

Group leader Professor Cathie Martin said: "We want to explore a way for consumers to benefit from our discoveries as we are finding there is a demand for the added health benefits."

The tomatoes have high levels of anthocyanins, normally found in dark berries, that also prolong shelf life. Regulatory approval for commercial sales in North America could be granted "in as little as two years", said JIC.

Paul Carver, chief executive officer at JIC partner grower New Energy Farms, added: "In the future, more products like this with high levels of compounds for human health will become available and on a much larger scale."

Meanwhile, a new tomato variety bred conventionally in Brazil boasts high levels of the antioxidant lycopene, thought to reduce the risk of degenerative and cardiovascular diseases. Bred by Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), the BRS Zamir variety is also claimed to have an appealing sugar/acid balance.

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