Tomato that refuses to rot

Indian scientists have found a method through which they may be able to increase the tomato's shelf life, reports Srinivasa Prasad.

| Updated on: Mar 17 2005, 19:51 IST

A tomato that will not rot. That's what Dr Asis Datta and his team, which includes Subra Chakraborty and Niranjan Chakraborty, are promising. They have identified a gene that produces a 'ripening-enzyme.' By using what biotechnologists call 'anti-sense technology', they have found a method to lower the production of this enzyme. Which basically means the tomato has a longer shelf life.

For the moment, he isn't willing to say anything else about this gene. But Datta is talking about a gene, which when introduced into a tomato, helps prevent the formation of kidney stones.

Working at the National Centre for Plant Genome Research (NCPGR) of the department of biotechnology in Delhi, he and his team isolated a gene called Oxalate Decarboxylase from an edible fungus named Collybia Velutipes and found that it makes tomatoes free of its oxalic acid. This chemical,  if consumed in large quantities, causes kidney stones and hypocalcemia.  "We will be soon ready for field trials," says Datta.

The scientists say that this genetic manipulation, besides adding nutritional value to tomatoes, also makes the tomato plants resistant to a disease-causing fungus that destroys crops.

The Research Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) of the biotechnology department has given its preliminary approval for the tomato project. "This is a significant discovery," says a senior official of the department, adding: "Besides developing transgenic tomatoes, the finding has opened up a whole new area of research on other vegetables relevant to human health."

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First Published Date: 13 Mar, 03:13 IST