Select Committee on European Communities Minutes of Evidence


Press release by Nottingham University, 4 June 1998



Plans revealed for European grown GM tomatoes

Names of genetically modified tomatoes announced

  A milestone in research collaboration between academia and industry was reached last night when the University of Nottingham received from Zeneca the first royalty payment for its research on genetically modified processing tomatoes.

  The tomatoes, grown in California, were used to produce tomato puree. This was the first food produced from genetically modified fruit offered for sale in the UK (or Europe) and has been sold over the past two years in the stores of Safeway and J Sainsbury. The tomato puree—on sale in cans clearly labelled as GM food and sold side by side with the non-transformed variety—has been very well received by the consumer.

  The modified tomato was based on joint research by Professor Don Grierson, of The University of Nottingham, and Zeneca. The product was developed by Zeneca and the Petoseed breeders at Seminis, the world's largest vegetable seed company.

  The tomato ripens normally but softens more slowly. This processing tomato offers benefits throughout the supply chain; the farmer and processor can get better quality fruit to the factory, while the consumer is offered quality and cost savings.

  Sir Colin Campbell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham, received the first royalty payment from Dr David Evans, Research and Development Director—Zeneca Agrochemicals, as a result of the UK sales.

  "The development of the tomato puree is a case study of how a successful research collaboration between academia and industry as well as between different companies in the agri/food chain can lead to the launch of a successful new product. It signifies the start of an exciting future" said Dr Evans.

  Sir Colin said, "The University of Nottingham is proud to be associated with a successful partnership between Zeneca, Seminis, Safeway and Sainsbury. The success of this product is proof that the consumer wants the benefits that biotechnology can offer, provided that they are fully informed and treated with respect."

  Henk Pennings, Seminis associate director of research and development for Europe, said that "the alliance proved to be an optimal blending of "hardware", the Petoseed tomato, with "software", the Zeneca/University of Nottingham gene-isolation technology. Pennings also paid tribute to the contributions throughout the food chain, including Zeneca, the retail partners and ultimately consumer preference and choice. "We look forward to many more successful endeavours in the future" Pennings commented.

  Pennings announced that the names of the first two transgenic tomato varieties for Europe would be "Vegadura" and "Vegaspeso".

  Following the success of the genetically modified tomato puree in the UK, Zeneca and Seminis have applied for the necessary regulatory approvals from the European Union to grow "Vegadura" and "Vegaspeso" tomatoes and to sell them as processed products.

  Further Press inquiries, etc.

Dr Nigel Poole

Zeneca Plant Science

Jealott's Hill Research Station


Berkshire RG42 6ET

Tel: (44) 1344 414136

Fax: (44) 1344 414657

Notes for editors

  1. The genetically modified tomato puree was first sold in stores of Safeway and J Sainsbury on 5 February 1996. The tomato is modified to produce lower levels of the enzyme polgalacturonase, this means that the fruit ripens normally and stays ripe in the field for a couple of days longer. The result is that better quality fruit can be delivered to the manufacturers for turning into processed food products. The first product is tomato puree sold in Safeway and Sainsbury stores. Once European production has begun we will see other processed products (particularly diced) being offered for sale.

  2. Zeneca Group PLC (Registered Office, London) is a leading international bioscience group with a turnover in 1997 of GBP 5.19 billion.

  3. Zeneca Agrochemicals is the crop protection and plant science business of the Zeneca Group. It is the third largest supplier to this international market, with sales in 1997 of GBP 1.63 billion in over 130 countries.

  4. Zeneca Plant Science (ZPS) is the business unit within Zeneca Agrochemicals which researches, develops and delivers value-added crop characteristics to growers and processors through the application of biotechnology.

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