back to article Stand by for PURPLE KETCHUP as boffins breed SUPER TOMATOES

You might find yourself banging out a blob of PURPLE ketchup onto your bacon sarnie in days come, as scientists report that they may soon have managed to create a type of heliotrope-hued super tomato, superior to the humble red variety known and loved today. “Working with GM tomatoes that are different to normal fruit only by …


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  1. MrDamage
    Thumb Up

    I for one

    Welcome our new Indigo Overlords.

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: I for one

      We should not meddle in things only barely understood...

      1. Crisp Silver badge

        Re: We should not meddle in things only barely understood...

        If I followed that maxim then I'd never get anything done!

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: I for one

        Just because you don't understand it, it doesn't mean that those conducting the experiments aren't qualified to do so.

        Since the advent of the internet, scientific knowledge is freer than ever. I'd suggest to those who object to genetic modification to actually learn about the science involved before airing their ill-informed objections.

        Whilst there are legitimate ethical issues involved, these are focused more on the issues of intellectual property rights; for example if a biotech firm develops a crop which has disease resistance, and sells the seeds to a farmer, they can then charge the farmer if he chooses to hold back seeds from the crop to plant the following year, or prevent him from doing this entirely through restricitve licensing rules. If his crop then cross-pollinates another farmer's un-modified crop, issues around IP ownership can then arise. I believe this has happend in practice, and it constitues a thorny issue, as both the farmer and the producer of the seeds have to make a living.

        On the other hand, "I don't understand it, so it must be wrong" is about the most idiotic stance you can take on the issue.

        1. S4qFBxkFFg

          Re: I for one

          I would have included the "Joke Alert!" icon, but did not think it necessary given the link I posted.

          Unless there IS a realistic prospect of Bernard Manning pontificating from my salad.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Loyal Commenter

          "Just because you don't understand it, it doesn't mean that those conducting the experiments aren't qualified to do so."

          The problem is that those conducting the research most certainly do not either.

          When it comes to assessing the impact of genetically modified organisms on the environment and to those that consume them, the number of variables are simply too great. You're forced into a suck it and see approach which is often rushed or fudged, especially in the US, where anything is possible if your pockets are deep enough and you lobby the right politicians.

          For example:

          "The Monsanto Protection Act, essentially both written by and benefiting Monsanto Corporation, has been signed into law by United States President Barack Obama. The infamous Monsanto Corporation will benefit greatly and directly from the bill, as it essentially gives companies that deal with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) seeds immunity to the federal courts, among other things.

          The bill states that even if future research shows that GMOs or GE seeds cause significant health problems, cancer, etc, anything, that the federal courts no longer have any power to stop their spread, use, or sales."

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: @Loyal Commenter

            The problem is that those conducting the research most certainly do not either.

            Certainly anyone who follows current research in genetics and related fields, even in the most cursory fashion, should be aware of just how much theoretical churn there is in the area. Gene expression and other epigenetic mechanisms, for example, are still not well understood - that is, we know quite a lot about some specific cases but have only vague models of the general processes.

            Similarly we still don't know nearly enough about gene migration and competition for space in the genome (the sort of thing that was once dismissed as "junk DNA", entirely erroneously, as it turns out). The Starlink debacle showed how dangerous that particular bit of ignorance can be.

            And there's always the worry that a GMO food will turn out to produce a novel protein that proves to be an unexpected allergen for a significant number of people, or acts as a dangerous prion. That may be unlikely, but the consequences could be severe.

            And, of course, the vast amount of money attached to GMO research threatens scientific integrity, as is true in other areas. Scientists are human and susceptible to a variety of incentives, not all of which lead to favorable behavior.

            That's not to say that knee-jerk reactions against GMO research or products is the best alternative either; for one thing, the incentives mean someone will be doing it, so surely we're better off with transparency and informed monitoring rather than panic-induced blanket bans.

        4. Dutchman

          Re: I for one

          Actually, the biggest problem with current GM crops is that these are resistant to more potent herbicides, produced by the same companies. These newer and more powerful herbicides are suspected to be killing the bees and birds and end up in our food as well.

  2. Rattus Rattus
    Thumb Up

    I just had to point out

    that the scientific name of the sexual phase of grey mould is "Botryotinia fuckeliana". Snigger.

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: I just had to point out

      Lol. tinia.

  3. G R Goslin

    shelf life.

    If my local supermarket, a well known company, is anything to go by, they must keep their tomatoes on a shelf in the dtore room for about 19 days before putting them out for sale.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: shelf life.

      As someone who unfortunately works in a supermarket I can confirm this as being true.

      Also, if a pack of anything goes out of date its split open and dumped in with the loose items, eg carrots, toms, onions etc. anything you buy 'loose' you cannot guarantee the date at all.

      Also good luck getting chilled produce within acceptable temperature limits in summer. If its to warm we get told we are to refuse it, but we never can because that would leave the shelves empty for 24h...

    2. Ru

      Re: shelf life.

      This is definitely the case for meat, too. Askat your supermarket meat counter how long a nice chunk of flesh will last before you have to cook it, and compare that with how long your local normal butcher quotes... we got 2 days and 7 days for a bit of fillet respectively.

      There's a price to pay for supermarket logistics, after all.

  4. Blofeld's Cat


    The cynic in me feels that the development process went something like this...

    Boffin: "Good news everyone, we've managed to engineer tomatoes with double the usual shelf life."

    Marketeer: "But they're purple - nobody will buy purple tomatoes. Well not unless they prevent cancer or something."

    Boffin: "I'll see what we can do."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmm...

      It could have been worse, they might have started out to make a purple tomato to tempt the "its different" crows, and then discovered it had double the shelf-life

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Boffin: Good news everyone...

      ... I've invented a device that makes you read this in my own voice?

      1. Graham Dawson

        Re: Boffin: Good news everyone...

        You made the tomato purple? Why not Zoidberg!

      2. Parax

        Re: Boffin: Good news everyone...

        No Boffin it's not working. I can only hear Professor Farnsworth's voice.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

          Re: Boffin: Good news everyone...

          Marketeer: "But they're purple - nobody will buy purple tomatoes. Well not unless they prevent cancer or something."

          Anyway, if the Dutch can breed purple (and white) carrots and make them orange, why can't we take the tomato back the other way to lovely purpleness? Now we'd all think the original ones were weird.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Hmm...

      nobody will buy purple tomatoes

      Except those of us who understand tomatoes, perhaps. Around here, where people grow real tomatoes (not tragic mass-market crap), a wide range of heirloom-variety tomatoes are available - at smaller groceries, farmers' markets, CSAs, a table in someone's driveway with an honor-system collection box... Real tomatoes come in all sorts of colors - red, yellow, orange, green, purple (I can't think why they've missed out blue) - and are often striped. They're quite decorative.

  5. ChrisM

    the key question....

    Will it change the taste of a BLT? The lunchtime equivalant of the holy bacon sandwich of legend...

    Enquiring minds need to know!

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: the key question....

      Meh. The problem with a BLT is the LT.

      1. auburnman

        Re: the key question....

        If we're genetically engineering tomatoes, we should fix them so they taste like bacon.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: the key question....

          We already have beef tomatoes after all.

        2. VinceH Silver badge

          Re: the key question....

          Can we fix the lettuce while we're at it?


          1. ChrisM

            Re: the key question....

            My ideal daily menu:

            Breakfast - Bacon sandwich FOLLOWED by coffee (so the taste of the coffee doesn't overpower the bacon)

            Lunch: BLT, lots of B, some shreds of L and a slice of T

            Dinner: bacon wrapped chicken with pasta in a cheese and herb sauce

            Heart attack to follow soon after supper time

        3. Michael Dunn
          Thumb Up

          Re: the key question....@auburnman

          "If we're genetically engineering tomatoes, we should fix them so they taste like bacon."

          Yay! Veggie BLT's!

  6. gribbler

    ketchup on a bacon sarnie?


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ketchup on a bacon sarnie?

      That's what I thought too! It's just barbaric! Maybe we should have stayed out of WWII.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    used to be purple, beetroots were also different colours.

    The modern orange carrot is a new "invention".

    I have purple and red carrots growing as we speak.

    Beetroots, by the way, are not coloured with anthocyanin (common misconception) but the more purple betacyanin...

    Which, it seems, is a trick used to turn cannabis purple and then sell at an inflated price...*Must* be good, its purple!!!!

    1. wowfood

      Re: Carrots

      I swear I remember seeing some of those purple carrots on Britains best dish. Or something along those lines anyway.

      I don't know what it is about me, but I just down find purple food appetizing. Except strangely purple lettuce. Although I think it's because I find green even less appetizing than purple.

    2. Elmer Phud

      Re: Carrots

      "Which, it seems, is a trick used to turn cannabis purple and then sell at an inflated price...*Must* be good, its purple!!!!"

      I knew someone who developed a strain that could be easily grown outdoors in the U.K.

      It was purple and not bad at all -- about 20 years ago, not a new thing.

      In the old days you could tie up any old leaves using a bit of red cotton and a twig -- instant Thai.

    3. Richard IV

      Re: Carrots

      Orange is "new"? It's been a good 300 years since the Dutch pulled off their nationalistic selective breeding coup.

      I've found the purpureal varieties of veg tend to be a bit more flavoursome, if more staining, than others but, if I'm reading the article correctly, the JIC are vaunting that they've managed to engineer only the colourant gene in. Here's hoping the actually-tasting-nice code is built into it...

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Carrots

        I meant "new" relatively.....

        I'm looking forward to tasting mine so long as i can keep the bloody slugs off em....

    4. Turtle

      Purple Potatoes: Re: Carrots

      I had purple potatoes once. And they were not purplish: they were a very rich purple. But I don't recall these purple potatoes tasting any different from the more common varieties.

    5. Martin Budden Bronze badge

      Re: Carrots

      I like the purple carrots, they're good. I don't like the white and yellow ones as much, and the orange ones are only OK if very young.

      Home-grown tomatoes and beetroot and EVERYTHING are way better than anything you'll find in a supermarket. If you have any outdoor area at all, start growing veg! Even if you don't, grow some herbs on your windowsill.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Carrots

        I once read that the main reason home-grown tomatoes (and possibly other vegetables) taste so much better is partly the varieties chosen, but mostly because they tend to be subject to slight water deprivation from time to time as they mature. Commercial growers make sure their tomatoes take up all the water they can, for obvious reasons.

  8. Chris Miller

    If they could produce a supermarket tomato that actually tastes of something (my preference would be for 'tomato'), that would be a real breakthrough.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      No, make 'em taste of bacon and lettuce. That would be a real mindfuck.

  9. Colin Miller

    Here's a revolutionary idea: - just eat food stuffs that have anthocyanins in them, including blueberry, cranberry, bilberry, raspberry, cherry, red grape, red cabbage and aubergine skin.

  10. Suburban Inmate

    Healthy food good, profiteering bad.

    I've no problem with these tomatoes, or GM that works as advertised. But there's always a but.

    My problem is with the corporate ownership of the genes, with all the greed that goes with that. Megacorporations e.g. Monsanto can cover up adverse studies and dampen down the media coverage of opposition by threatening to pull advertising. Look at the rise of peasant farmer suicides, the corporate opposition to the labelling of GM food, underhand tactics used to bully farmers in the USA, massive political bribes, the list goes on.

    Free (as in software) selectively bred crop varieties will do just fine, thankyouverymuch. If they are grown without paying protection money (purchasing chemicals) then so much the better.

    1. MondoMan

      Re: labeling "GM" food

      The problem is that all current/proposed laws require labeling only a small subset of the GM food as "GM". Most of the food we eat today has been GM over the centuries, from the mixing of entire genomes of different species of grasses thousands of years ago to result in today's grain crops, to the massive irradiation and chemical mutagenesis of seeds during the early and middle 20th century in search of new varieties of already-existing food plants. Ever wonder how they keep generating all those new varieties of roses?

      Sadly, the evil corporations are right in their stance on the GM labeling laws (if for the wrong reason!).

      1. Old Handle

        Re: labeling "GM" food

        While you do have a point, I maintain there's a big difference between crossing cabbage with turnips and crossing maize with moths.

    2. MondoMan

      Re: Dude, look up "hybrid" crops

      A big 20th century advance in plant breeding, but it pretty much requires a big company to grow the pairs of varieties that are the parents of the hybrid, since the hybrid plants will produce only offspring different from the hybrid parents. That's where Monsanto and the other big seed companies got their start, in the early 20th century, way before we even knew what DNA's structure looked like.

  11. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Have you noticed that every effort to make food suitable for supermarket shelves

    makes it shit for the consumer.

    Me - I'm growing a variety of tomato in my polytunnel which goes back to the 1880's.

    When ripe it looks like an elephants haemorrhoids and is soft so you'll never see it in the shops but it tastes like heaven.

    Oh and its pretty much purple.

    I'm getting the impression the GM industry is a bit like software patents - pretend you've invented something and hope no-one notices its been done before. If my product stayed on the shelf for two days I'd think it a failure, if it has to last 48 days it would be a disaster.

    1. JDX Gold badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Have you noticed that every effort to make food suitable for supermarket shelves

      You can keep them.

  12. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    The good news:

    Eating purple tomatoes will "prolong the lives of cancer-prone mice"

    The bad news:

    To achieve this outcome you must eat purple tomatoes and no other food. And you must be a mouse.

    1. Alfred

      And not just any mouse...

      As I recall, the genetic lines of mice and rats used for this sort of thing have effectively been selected because they give "good" results; the poor bastards are fantastically more cancer-prone than their wild brethren.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: And not just any mouse...

        "As I recall, the genetic lines of mice and rats used for this sort of thing have effectively been selected because they give "good" results; the poor bastards are fantastically more cancer-prone than their wild brethren."


        That's sort of the point.

        To make them virtually guaranteed to develop a cancer when exposed to a carcinogen. If most of them don't you're fairly sure what you've been feeding them has been protecting them.

        Now what is the result if they are just fed ordinary tomatoes.

        1. Crisp Silver badge

          Re: Now what is the result if they are just fed ordinary tomatoes.

          Are you insinuating that they didn't use a control group?

  13. Richard the Head

    Tomatoes in the fridge - Nooooo!

    Don't every keep your tomatoes in the fridge.

    They'll end up tasting like chicken.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Tomatoes in the fridge - Nooooo!

      I like chicken.

    2. MondoMan

      Re: Tomatoes in the fridge - Nooooo!

      Exactly -- what kind of heathen puts tomatoes in the fridge?

    3. Wzrd1

      Re: Tomatoes in the fridge - Nooooo!

      Never had that problem in 50 years of putting tomatoes in the fridge.

      Maybe you should wrap your chicken better.

  14. Alan Denman

    one of each

    I'm sure many till prefer the red ones complete with cancer creating pesticides.

    For certain many see red with "how dare they remove our cancer"

  15. cortland

    Ah. Ketchup that removes the nitrosamines. And the flavor.

    They'll go VIMES over it.

  16. cortland

    Do they fly?

    Is it a flying purple people eater? (youtube)

    1. Martin Budden Bronze badge

      Re: Do they fly?

      I'm not worried, I'm not a purple people.

    2. Wzrd1

      Re: Do they fly?

      Nope. It's the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

      Only, these are killing off cancer before it may get a foothold. Except when they don't.

  17. Spoonsinger

    Read the title,

    thought of

    (should read the article sometime).

  18. disgruntled yank Silver badge


    Breed a tomato that tastes like something, not a mass of lightly flavored pulp. Let me worry about my own anti-oxidants.

  19. Michael Strorm

    Purple Ketchup? Been done...

    Heinz got there years ago with their "funky purple" (*) EZ-Squirt ketchup. Anyone else remember that? They also did it in other colours such as lurid green. According to this article:-

    ...this was back in 2000.

    (*) What the f*** is it with marketing tossers that anything brightly-coloured aimed at young people is described as "funky"?! To paraphrase Alexei Sayle, have you noticed that anyone who uses the word 'funky', who isn't involved in the music industry is a right twat?

  20. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    As always there is *good* GM and *bad* GM


    Usually done in research labs in developing countries to improve their countries national crops in some way (better drought resistance improved vitamin content to reduce malnutrition) without harming their ability to reproduce. Genes likely to be different varieties of the same species or at most a different plant.


    Done by an agrochemicals company to make it resistant to their (proprietary) brand of fertilizer/herb/insecticide. Genes from everywhere from other plants to jelly fish and sharks (IIRC).

    And of course to make them sterile so you have to buy next years seeds from them as well.

    If you thought the likes of Microsoft, HP and IBM practiced "Proprietary lockin" you have not seen the scale of agrichemicals.

    1. The last doughnut

      Re: As always there is *good* GM and *bad* GM

      Another way to experience proprietary lock-in is to buy a BMW motorcycle.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd be happy

    If they could just grow a tomato that tasted like a tomato.

  22. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Great. Florida can grow even nastier tomatoes

    Even CNN slammed them:

  23. Juillen 1

    I've been growing purple tomatoes for a while..

    Purple Calabash can give a lovely deep purple (though do tend to the red)

  24. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Isn't this how "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" started??

    From schlock horror cult film to damning prophetic tract!!

    (Just want to make sure that when I open the vegatable crisper, nothing that looks like selected icon comes leaping out at me!)

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, use purple tomatos...

    ... and use blue corn meal for the bread.

  26. Wzrd1

    Want a good tomato design? Lower the potassium level in the fruit, lower the phosphorus content as well to levels that dialysis patients can still enjoy.

    Just don't hurt the flavor.

    Hey, stop laughing! ;)

  27. Dagg

    Purple Tomatoes are NOT new

    I've been buying and growing purple tomatoes for ages. They are a lot sweeter with purple / blue flesh and juice.

  28. mfritz0

    Did you ever stop to think that there might be a reason the mold and mildew don't do so well when it tries to eat this type of tomato? Maybe these little organisms know something we don't?

  29. Michael Dunn
    Thumb Up

    "There probably isn't enough purple food in our lives." However, some so-called "pak choi" have very fetching purple leaves.

  30. Nigel 11

    Grow your own!

    People seem to be under the mistaken impression that the only natural colour for a tomato is red. Actually, they can be red, orange, yellow, green(but ripe!), purple, or near-black, to say nothing of striped or blotched in various combinations of these colours. This is just using the normal techniques of selective breeding to create new varieties. Check out a good seed catalogue.

    The tastiest tomato variety I've ever tried is called "Black Russian" and is green-purple-black with much the same aesthetics as a really bad bruise. Unsurprisingly you won't find it in supermarkets. I'm not sure if it's grown commercially at all.

    The uniform red globes you get in supermarkets are bred for high yield, visual appearance, long shelf life, and resistance to bruising in transit, with flavour in a rather distant fifth place. (One commercially-grown variety is called "Moneymaker", which rather gives the game away)

  31. The last doughnut


    So has it been proven yet that they have any health benefit at all when present in your diet?

    I thought this was still a matter of scientific conjecture and nevertheless widespread belief.

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