Controversial genetically modified tomato set to invade American gardens
By News Editors // May 12, 2024

A new genetically modified tomato seed has been released for sale to gardeners, despite receiving little scrutiny from the FDA. Critics worry that this stealthy introduction of GM crops into American gardens could lead to further acceptance of genetically modified foods, which they view as a potential threat to the environment and human health.

(Article republished from

The gardening season welcomes a novel entrant, the GM Purple Tomato, engineered by UK-based Norfolk Plant Sciences and aimed not just at commercial growers but at home gardeners across the U.S, reports the Epoch Times. This tomato variety, enhanced with the genetic qualities of edible snapdragon flowers to produce high levels of anthocyanins, promises heightened antioxidant levels and potential health benefits, stirring both excitement and controversy.

Leading the development was biochemist Cathie Martin, who utilized genetic engineering to incorporate two genes from snapdragons into the tomato plants, allowing them to exhibit a unique purple hue and enhanced nutritional properties. Norfolk Healthy Produce, the U.S. subsidiary involved, markets these tomatoes as a “rich source of antioxidants,” highlighting their comprehensive anthocyanin content not just in the skin but throughout the entire fruit.

Despite the potential benefits, the introduction of the GM Purple Tomato into home gardens has raised significant concerns due to the minimal regulatory review it underwent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted it a pass from regulation in 2022, determining it posed no plant pest risk according to their statement, and in 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) followed up by classifying the tomato as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) without a premarket review, as detailed in their “no questions” letter.

The safety testing, which was based primarily on internal data from Norfolk Plant Sciences, has been criticized for its insufficiency in ensuring the GM Purple Tomato’s safety for human consumption. According to an FDA memo from June 13, 2023, and further reports by GM Watch, the tests did not comprehensively address the potential unintended effects of the genetic modifications.

According to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, 51 percent of Americans view GMOs as worse for their health compared with foods that are not genetically modified. Furthermore, only 7 percent of Americans who were polled viewed GMOs as being healthier.

The most controversial aspects involve the methodology and depth of the genetic assessments conducted. Critics, including geneticist Michael Antoniou, argue that without extensive molecular analyses, the safety of the tomatoes remains unverified. This sentiment is echoed in concerns about new allergenic compounds, which, despite not matching any known allergens, do not guarantee safety against potential allergies.

Adding to the controversy are the health claims associated with the Purple Tomato. These claims are largely based on a pilot feeding study published in 2008, which suggested potential health benefits in mice but have not been substantiated in human studies. This study has led to sensational claims in the media, with reports by Daily Express and Reuters amplifying the narrative of a cancer-fighting tomato without robust evidence.

As these genetically modified tomatoes make their way into personal gardens, they bring forth significant debates on GMO policies, public health safety, and the ethical implications of biotechnological advancements in agriculture. With its profound potential impacts, the introduction of the GM Purple Tomato into consumer markets serves as a critical case study for future GMO products and their acceptance or rejection by the public.

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