Gene check

July 3, 1998

(Photograph) - The first royalty payment for British sales of a genetically modified tomato puree has been made to the University of Nottingham. A cheque for a couple of thousand pounds - the university was cagey about the exact amount - was handed over by Zeneca, which developed the technology with the university.

Researchers at the university identified the genes associated with ripening and discovered how to silence them. The work led to tomatoes that ripen normally but soften more slowly. The puree, which took 13 years to develop, involved a series of firsts, said Don Grierson, head of plant science at the university. "It involved the first ripening gene ever discovered. It the first time that gene silencing has been used in a product. And it is the first genetically modified food sold in Europe. Puree made from the tomatoes is sold, clearly labelled, at branches of Sainsbury's and Safeway supermarkets.

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