U. S. Food and Drug Administration
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
FDA Consumer: September 1994

First Biotech Tomato Marketed

A tomato developed through biotechnology was declared by FDA last May to be as safe as tomatoes bred by conventional means. This was the first time the agency had evaluated a whole food produced by biotechnology, techniques that allow scientists to modify the genetic material of living things. The tomato is being marketed under the name FLAVR SAVR. The manufacturer, Calgene, Inc., of Davis, Calif., says FLAVR SAVR tomatoes are bred to stay firm after harvest and so may remain on the vine longer to ripen to full flavor So they won't be crushed on the way to market, other tomato varieties must be harvested while they are green and firm. After shipment, processors induce ripening by treating the tomatoes with ethylene gas, the natural ripening agent in tomatoes.

The company has been working with FDA for several years developing new products through biotechnology, and asked FDA to review FLAVR SAVR in August 1991. After evaluating the data submitted by Calgene, FDA scientists concluded that the FLAVR SAVR tomato has not been significantly altered and is as safe to eat as other tomatoes. This assessment was supported by the agency's Food Advisory Committee, a panel of experts from outside FDA. Since the FLAVR SAVR tomato maintains the essential characteristics of traditionally developed tomatoes, FDA will not require special labeling. However, Calgene said it plans to provide point-of-sale information for consumers about the development of the new product through genetic engineering.

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