Genetically Modified Purple TomatoesOctober 20, 2022

Purple tomatoes developed by Norfolk Plant Sciences in the UK may be coming to grocery stores in the not too distant future. Last month, USDA APHIS announced that, from a plant pest risk perspective, the purple tomato may be safely grown and used in breeding in the US.

The purple color of the tomato is due to the accumulation of anthocyanins, which are antioxidant compounds purported to have health benefits. Anthocyanins are the red, purple, blue, or black compounds that also give fruits like blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries their distinctive colors.

While purple tomatoes can be produced through traditional breeding, the anthocyanins tend to only accumulate in the tomato skin rather than the flesh. Instead, this purple tomato is genetically modified to express the Delila and Rosea1 transcription factor genes from common snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) under a tomato fruit specific promoter to provide anthocyanins throughout the fruit and at a much higher level.

The genetically modified purple tomato is claimed in U.S. Patent No. 8,802,925, issued August 12, 2014. Claims in the patent are directed to plants with increased anthocyanins that comprise a first heterologous nucleic acid which encodes Rosea1 and a second heterologous nucleic acid which encodes Delila. The patent also covers related methods for increasing the level of anthocyanins in a solanaceous plant as well as food products produced from the plants. The patent has an anticipated expiration date of February 12, 2031.

Brian D. Keppler, Ph.D. is a registered Patent Agent in the MVS Biotechnology & Chemical Practice Group. To learn more, visit our MVS website, or contact Brian directly via email.

← Return to Filewrapper

Stay in Touch

Receive the latest news and updates from us and our attorneys.

Sign Up