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Genome-edited tomato enters Japanese market

2 min read

Sicilian Rouge High GABA is a special type of tomato designed to contain high levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid believed to aid relaxation and help lower blood pressure.

Tokyo-based startup Sanatech Seed Co. collaborated with scientists at the University of Tsukuba to develop this new variety of tomatoes using CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology.
Sicilian Rouge High GABA contains in fact five to six times the normal level of a type of GABA and, according to Japanese media, the company removed an inhibitory domain within the tomato’s genome to enable it to produce these high levels of amino acid.

According to Shimpei Takeshita, President of Sanatech Seed and Chief Innovation Officer of Pioneer EcoScience, the exclusive distributor of the tomato, the company was given permission to commercialize the genetically altered Sicilian Rouge High GABA variety last December, and farmers have been growing them ever since.
And now the tomatoes are ready to hit store shelves.

At first we got mixed reactions to genome-edited foods, and we thought it would be difficult to bring them to market as they’re not fully understood by consumers,” said Takeshita Tatsuo, chair of Sanatech Seed in an interview, “but the tomatoes earned a good reputation from those who took part in the cultivation trials.

A Japanese health ministry committee granted Sanatech Seed permission to commercialize the new tomato variety, provided notification was given, and the startup plans to ship each package of tomatoes with a sticker that says “improved using genome editing technology“.
But, unlike other genetically modified foods, genome-edited plant varieties are considered safe, because varieties improved using conventional methods and no outside gene is introduced during the process.

Sanatech Seed has already started accepting online orders for Sicilian Rouge High GABA tomatoes, and a 3-kilogram box of tomatoes will reportedly cost 7,500 yen or about 68 dollars.
Yes, a lot of money for tomatoes…

Images from web – Google Research

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