The US Department of Agriculture has approved a genetically modified purple tomato. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s regulatory status review states that the plant ‘may be safely grown and used in breeding in the [US]’.

The ‘nutritionally enhanced’ purple tomatoes were created by the UK’s first GM crop company, Norfolk Plant Sciences (NPS). The company is a spinout created by Norwich-based researchers Cathie Martin from the John Innes Centre and Jonathan Jones from the Sainsbury Laboratory.

NPS has added two genes from snapdragons to its tomato plants, which increase the concentration of anthocyanins produced in the plants’ fruit. Anthocyanins are associated with a number of health benefits and are responsible for the tomatoes’ deep purple colour.

As a result of the approval, US home growers should be able to purchase seeds from spring next year.

‘This is fantastic, I never thought I would see this day. We are now one step closer to my dream of sharing healthy purple tomatoes with the many people excited to eat them,’ said Martin in a statement on the John Innes Centre’s website. ‘The bittersweet thing is that the tomatoes will be on sale in America and not the UK as well. But the plus side is that by focusing on home growers we will be consumer oriented, and we will be able to get feedback and interest needed to develop other products.’