Vitamin D 'super tomatoes' are coming. Would you eat them?
British researchers have used gene-editing technology to create a tomato that contains vitamin D, or could provide people with plant-sourced vitamin D. Currently, people can only get this essential nutrient from the sun or eating animal products such as meat, eggs and milk.
Researchers at the John Innes Center for Genetic Research in the United Kingdom announced the results of the study in a paper published on the same day in the British journal Nature Plants. The researchers say the tomatoes taste the same as regular tomatoes, and eating just two medium-sized tomatoes a day is enough to meet the vitamin D requirement.
Vitamin D3 can effectively increase the level of vitamin D in the body. Tomato leaves contain 7-DHC, the essential element for the production of vitamin D3, which is provitamin D3. The researchers used gene-editing technology to suppress a gene in tomato plants, allowing vitamin D3 to accumulate in the fruit as well as in the leaves.
Researchers exposed tomato leaves and sliced fruit to ultraviolet light for an hour to convert their vitamin D3 content into vitamin D3, which in turn produced the same amount of vitamin D as 28 grams of tuna or two medium-sized eggs.
The tomato is not yet commercially available. The researchers are now growing the tomatoes outdoors and want to explore whether the sunlit fruit also produces vitamin D. The first tomatoes grown outdoors are expected to ripen in June.
A bill to allow the commercial cultivation of gene-edited crops will be voted on in the UK Parliament on Tuesday. The vitamin D-containing tomatoes are expected to go on sale after parliament passes the bill.