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Sanatech Seed tomato
Image credit: Sanatech Seed

Brief: Japanese company brings ‘world’s first genome-edited tomato’ to market

March 30, 2021

  • Japan’s Sanatech Seed has soft-launched what it claims to be the world’s first genome-edited (GE) tomato for the consumer market.
  • The Tokyo-based company is handing out five seedlings each of its new variety to 5,000-plus home gardeners who applied online to participate in the free-of-charge distribution drive.
  • The Sicilian Rouge High GABA tomato was developed using CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology. It contains up to five times the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) — an amino acid believed to aid relaxation and help lower blood pressure — than a regular tomato.

Why it matters:

“[Standard] Sicilian Rouge is a popular tomato, and consumers are already used to buying other products with a high GABA content, so we felt it was important to introduce them to the technology in a way that was already familiar to them,” said Sanatech Seed president Shimpei Takeshita, speaking at this year’s Global Tomato Congress.

“The seedlings will be distributed free of charge to home gardeners and if people like the product they will hopefully share their experience and help spread the word […] We’re in no rush to introduce the tomato commercially, the important thing is to win over the consumer,” he added.

According to a statement from the International Seed Foundation, the Japanese government has affirmed its “determination” that Sanatech Seed’s GE tomato will not be regulated as a genetically modified (GMO) product.

The approval process for GE products in Japan is less burdensome from a regulatory data perspective than that for GMO products, according to Sanatech.

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