A research team led by scientists at the John Innes Centre in Norwich have genetically edited tomatoes to produce vitamin D. The research has been published in Nature Plants.
Most foods contain little vitamin D and plants are generally very poor sources. Vitamin D3 is the most bioavailable form of Vitamin D and is produced in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. In winter and in higher latitudes people need to get vitamin D from their diet or supplements because the sun is not strong enough for the body to produce it naturally.
Tomatoes already contain very low levels of provitamin D3 in their leaves, but not normally in their fruits. The research team used CRISPR-Cas9 to make edits so that D3 accumulates in the tomato fruit as well.
40% of Europeans and a billion people worldwide have vitamin D insufficiency. GE tomatoes could provide a plant-based, sustainable source.
Journalists joined this online briefing to hear about the research and put their questions to members of the team.
Prof Cathie Martin, John Innes Centre
Dr Jie Li, John Innes Centre
Angelo Santino, Institute of Sciences of Food Production, Italy
Prof Susan Lanham-New, University of Surrey
This Briefing was accompanied by an SMC Roundup of Comments.