Technological advancements in farming are helping make a wide variety of vegetables accessible around the world – including new species of genetically modified crops.
Scientists from the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK, have conducted extensive research to alter a type of tomatoes commonly grown in greenhouses to produce a much larger level of pro-vitamin D than other tomatoes. These tomatoes, expected to see widespread commercial availability by the end of this year, could help reduce risks for chronic diseases, including rickets and other bone diseases, as well as various types of cancer.
The team used the gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9 to alter the gene functions that produce lycopene. It is not the first time CRISPR/Cas9 has been used for gene editing in plants. In 2020, the same type of gene editing produced an insect-resistant strain of rice – but this is the first example in produce that a gene has been edited to make a foodstuff nutritionally improved.
Studies reveal that one genetically modified tomato contained as much vitamin D as two medium-sized eggs. Tomatoes are our go-to food for filling the nutritional gaps in our diets, especially lycopene. Adding two medium-size tomatoes to your diet can close the gap in intake of vitamin D, said the study’s lead author, Jie Li.