1994 First genetically engineered food

The FlavrSavr tomato became the first genetically engineered food to be commercially grown and licensed for human consumption by the US Food and Drug Administration. The product was mostly marketed in California, but was not profitable and was eventually withdrawn. The company that developed the FlavrSavr, Calgene, was bought by Monsanto.

The scientists who developed the FlavrSavr tomato had the objective, as the name suggests, of developing a fruit that could be picked when ripe and still transported without damage. Most commercial tomatoes are picked when not fully ripe and artificially ripened by treating them with ethylene.

The Calgene team identified the enzyme that caused the fruit to soften when ripening and manipulated the genetic structure to suppress its development. The resulting tomato was evidently indistinguishable from regular tomatoes except that it remained firm for longer.

After extensive testing, the product was released to the market and sold well. However, the high production costs made it unprofitable and sales of the fresh tomatoes were abandoned. For some years a tomato paste was sold in the UK under the brand name Zeneca. However, media hysteria about this first genetically engineered food led to a decline in sales and the withdrawal of the product from supermarkets.

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