The first Genetically Modified Food in the United States was the Tomato

macgregorsDid you know the first FDA approved Genetically Modified Food, commonly known by the acronym GMO (genetically modified organism), was the tomato? It was introduced in the United states back in 1994 and was developed by the company Calgene Inc.

Below I have posted citations from two newspapers:

Pratt, S. (1994, May 19). CHICAGO AREA GETS TO SAMPLE NEW BREED OF TOMATO. Chicago Tribune (Pre-1997 Fulltext) Retrieved from
Can biotechnology provide flavorful, garden-fresh tomatoes to supermarkets across America year round? Shoppers in the Chicago area and parts of California should find out by the end of the month now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the Flavr Savrtomato, the country’s first genetically engineered foodstuff. Developed by Calgene Inc. of Davis, Calif., over 10 years, Flavr Savr tomatoes are genetically modified to resist rot so they can ripen fully on the vine but still hold up during shipping and storage. “The Flavr Savr process will be able to provide Chicago with a flavorful backyard tomato, but one that is grown in Mexico,” said Roger Salquist, chief executive officer of Calgene. They could begin showing up in the next 10 days.

Dailey, P. (1994, May 26). HOT TOMATO HOW DOES THE NEW FLAVR SAVR TASTE? Chicago Tribune (Pre-1997 Fulltext) Retrieved from
The first genetically-altered tomatoes appeared at a Chicago-area market Saturday after being heralded by the producer as the first year-round tomato with a vine-ripe taste of summer. But a Food Guide blind tasting this week found the tomato did not deliver on that promise. Flavr Savr tomatoes, approved last week by the Food and Drug Administration, are marketed commercially under the name MacGregor by Calgene Inc., a California-based biotechnology firm. They have been genetically engineered so their aging process slows to a crawl. This allows them to spend more time ripening on the vine, ostensibly so the flavor can develop naturally with the full benefit of sun and soil. Earlier this week the Food Guide gathered from various markets six varieties of tomatoes including the Flavr Savr and staged a blind tasting. Put to the test were cherry and regular tomatoes from Holland, purchased at Whole Foods and Treasure Island supermarkets respectively; regular tomatoes from Omni Foods; plum tomatoes from Whole Foods; regular tomatoes from Market Place, and the MacGregor tomato.

The Calgene modified tomato was dubbed the MacGregor tomato. It is genetically modified to express an extra copy of a gene that codes for an enzyme known as polygalacturonate (PG). Polygalacturonate is responsible for the softening of fruit as they ripen, but the modification actually decreases the amount of PG in fruit. This results in tougher skin, and a reduction in the age associated softening of the fruit; which is the reason why these tomatoes are said to last longer and be more flavorful. There is also another gene added to the tomato: ” In approving the Calgene tomato as safe, the FDA also allowed the use of the kanamycin-resistant gene as a safe food additive…It is used as a “marker gene” to determine which plants have been successfully modified and is harmless..”.

You can read more about GMO’s here

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