Biotech Plants Available for Home Growth

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), particularly in the form of biotech seeds, represent a substantial and significant product of genetic engineering. Many of these advancements have been largely commercial, geared towards crops like cotton or corn that can withstand certain pests or withstand Roundup, a potent weed killer. These developments were spearheaded by major companies such as Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred during the 1990s.

However, this landscape is shifting as these genetically engineered plants are now available for purchase directly from the makers. This allows anyone, even those without extensive land, to deploy these plants, whether it be in a backyard garden, on an apartment balcony, or simply in a pot.

One such example is the Purple Tomato, developed by a small business in Davis, California known as Norfolk Health Produce. These unique tomatoes are created by introducing a gene from a snapdragon flower into traditional tomato seeds. This gene produces a nutrient known as anthocyanin which colors the fruits with a vibrant purple.

This innovative tomato has been dubbed the “first-of-its-kind GMO food crop marketed directly to home gardeners” by Channa S. Prakash, a respected geneticist and Dean at Tuskegee University.

The CEO of Norfolk Health Produce, Nathan Pumplin, states that although anthocyanin is an antioxidant, the primary marketing point for the Purple Tomato often proves to be its extraordinary color. When people see it, its appealing purple shade creates an immediate and natural point of differentiation from typical red tomatoes.

Although the company hopes to eventually mass-distribute these unique tomatoes to supermarkets, satisfaction of customer demand has driven them to make the seeds available to avid home gardeners. Pumplin even acknowledges that gardeners are permitted to save and replant the seeds, effectively allowing endless home cultivation of this nutrient-rich and brilliantly colored fruit.

Elsewhere in the world of directly purchasable genetically engineered plants is the “firefly petunia,” a plant advertised to glow in the dark. This sensational product was introduced by Light Bio, an innovative start-up supported by the venture capital firm NFX.