Genome-edited tomato to be sold in Japan

Genome-edited tomatoes are set to appear on dining tables in Japan. It is the first time that genome-edited food will be sold and shipped to consumers in Japan.

The new variety was modified to have a higher content of a nutrient known as GABA which is thought to help reduce blood pressure.

Genome-edited foods can be distributed in Japan after the health ministry has been notified.

Unlike genetically modified foods, genome-edited varieties are considered as safe as anything improved using conventional methods because no outside gene is introduced.

In December, the health ministry granted Tokyo-based nursery company Sanatech Seed permission to sell the genome-edited tomato.

Contract farmers in Kumamoto Prefecture, in southwestern Japan, have already been growing the variety.

Sanatech Seed officials say they started to accept online orders from consumers on Wednesday as the tomatoes are now ready to be picked.

The company plans to ship each package of tomatoes with a sticker that says "improved using genome editing technology".

Takeshita Tatsuo, Chairman of Sanatechseed, said "At first we got mixed reactions to genome-edited foods, and we thought it would be difficult to bring them to market as they're not fully understood by consumers. But the tomatoes earned a good reputation from those who took part in the cultivation trials. We'll take every possible precaution when they go on sale."

A 3-kilogram box of tomatoes will cost 7,500 yen or about 68 dollars.