Press release by Seminis Vegetable Seeds,
Inc, 4 June 1998
SEMINIS-ZENECA ALLIANCE PRODUCES SUCCESSFUL
BIOTECH TOMATO PRODUCT IN UK
SATICOY, CALIF.A research and development
alliance between Seminis and Zeneca Plant Science has yielded
a genetically modified tomato product that consumers in the United
Kingdom favour two to one over its traditionally developed counterpart,
according to officials at Zeneca.
Tomato varieties developed through a collaboration
between Petoseed breeders at Seminis and Zeneca Plant Science
of London are being used to produce a canned puree that shoppers
in the United kingdom have enthusiastically received.
Since its introduction two years ago, the product
has outsold its competition, made from traditionally bred processing
tomatoes, by a margin of two to one. More than 1.6 million cans
of the puree were sold from the time of its introduction in February
1996 through November 1997. The tomato puree is marketed to consumers
through the Safeway and J Sainsbury grocery chains, both based
in the United Kingdom.
Officials of both Seminis and Zeneca say the
reason for the product's success is a combination of collaboration
among the companies through the entire research, development and
marketing chain, as well as a focus on consumer preferences.
The new hybrids were developed to improve the
quality of tomatoes used to make such processed foods as sauce,
ketchup, paste, and pizza topping by decreasing the amount of
an enzyme responsible for the breakdown of pectin, the natural
"glue" that holds together the cell walls of fruit and
vegetables. Zeneca isolated key genes responsible for the deterioration,
while Petoseed plant breeders employed sophisticated processes
to develop the hybrid varieties.
Since these varieties experience less softening
prior to processing, they offer growers and processors the economic
benefit of reduced tomato loss and spoilage during harvest and
transport. The processing tomatoes also feature a thicker wall,
which increases quality and efficiency at all phases of production,
from harvesting to cooking to canning, providing the consumer
with a quality product at a reasonable price.
The Zeneca-Petoseed collaboration is the first
commercial introduction of a Seminis product developed with the
help of biotechnology. The alliance proved to be an optimal blending
of "hardware", the Petoseed tomato, with "software",
the Zeneca-University of Nottingham gene-isolation technology,
said Mark Stowers, vice president of the worldwide marketing for
"We're pleased with the results of this
initial project and we look forward to collaboration on more successful
products for the future", Stower added.
The new varieties, named Vegadura and Vegaspeso,
have been evaluated extensively in the United States by the Food
and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture and found
to be safe and "substantially equivalent" to traditional
tomatoes in all areas, including nutrition. Subsequently, the
governments of Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom also approved
the processing tomato hybrids for introduction to their markets.
The products will be cleared for sale in Europe
pending approval under the Novel Food and Novel Food Ingredients
Regulation, a necessary process for products developed through
biotechnology and planned for sale in the European market, according
to Zeneca officials.
Note for editors:
Seminis, based in Saticoy, California, is the
world's largest developer and producer of vegetable seed. Seminis
markets products in 123 countries through its Asgrow, Bruinsma,
California, Genecorp, Petoseed and Royal Sluis brands.