A Tomato Of A Different Color

When genes from the snapdragon flower are inserted into tomatoes, which have small amounts of the anti-cancer agent, they produce more of it - and turn bright purple.  (CBS)

When genes from the snapdragon flower are inserted into tomatoes, which have small amounts of the anti-cancer agent, they produce more of it - and turn bright purple. (CBS)

(CBS) We've always been told fruit is good for you, but never this good.

A new study has shown that, with a little help from science, some fruit may even cure cancer, CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports.

The trick for genetic scientists was to take the natural cancer-fighting dark pigment that exists in blueberries and cranberries, for example, and produce it in more commonly available fruit ... like the garden variety tomato.

"Genetic modification is a technology," said genetic scientist Prof. Cathie Martin. "We can do some good things, which offer real advantages to consumers."

It turns out that when genes from the snapdragon flower are inserted into tomatoes, which have small amounts of the anti-cancer agent, they produce more of it. And when those tomatoes are fed to a cancer-prone breed of laboratory mice, they live longer.

A cancer-curing tomato may be good news - if you're a mouse.

But it's a long way from curing lab rats to curing people. Especially when the process turns the bright red tomato a deep, dark purple.

Don't expect the purple tomato to show up in supermarkets anytime soon. Years of testing are required to see if it really works and what its other effects might be.

"They have to see whether this tomato can be grown on a commercial scale - and whether they can ensure regulatory safety. Do the tests that show it is safe to eat and safe for the environment?" explained Greg Jaffe of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Here's another thing. The anti-cancer properties of the tomatoes improve with cooking, posing another question: is the world ready for purple pizza?

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