Not Quite Natural Purple GMO Tomatoes that can Prevent Cancer…Really?


I'm as big a fan of rich and brightly colored fruits and vegetables as anyone. They contain potent antioxidants that offer us many benefits including cancer prevention. But what if the rich colors were artificial? Not in the sense that M&M's are artificial, but in a gene from this and gene from that GMO kind of way?

That's the claim about a purple tomato being developed by researchers from the UK's John Innes Center. "The purple tomatoes have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects compared to regular ones and to slow the progression of soft-tissue carcinoma in cancer-prone mice. They also have double the shelf life," the center said on its website.

Read more about artificial colors

The researchers have used genes from a snapdragon plant to make a tomato that’s extremely purple—beyond the purple of an heirloom tomato. This is Crayola purple. The researchers claim the purple is full of anthocyanins—antioxidants that may be useful in the prevention of cancer—but when they're coming as a result of genetic modification, my head spins just a little.

After all, do we really know whether or not a contrived antioxidant will have the same benefit as one occurring naturally? Would you be willing to be the experiment to find out? If the purple is strong as those from berries, why not just eat berries instead?


Genetic modification is a scary technology because we just don't have long-term experience with any of it. Not the GMO corn and soy that are heavily sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, and not the "this will save your life" GMO tomatoes that scientists tell us could have measurable health benefits.

In fact, there's a really significant irony here worth noting: Cancer is on the rise mainly from dietary and lifestyle choices—choices that include foods high in high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and vegetable oils. All of which come from genetically modified crops. So we should eat a genetically modified food to reduce our risk of cancer instead of just eliminating the GMO foods in the first place?

Read more about GMO risks

I'm pretty certain the healthier choice is in sticking with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, and avoiding any food that visited a lab before making its way onto your plate.


Image via John Innes Center

By Andrea Donsky| February 04, 2014
Categories:  Eat

About the Author

Andrea Donsky

Andrea Donsky

Founder & Chief Passionista at NaturallySavvy.com. See my full bio here.

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