Meyer Tomatoes announced that it is discontinuing its contract withCalgene Inc. for producing Calgene's genetically engineered tomato.

"At this time, the goals and objectives that Calgene has set forth donot coincide with the immediate plans of my organization," saidRobert Meyer, owner of Meyer Tomatoes of King City, Calif. "I nolonger feel that our contract with Calgene supports the best interestsof Meyer Tomatoes."

Calgene's vice president of marketing, Stephen Benoit, said thosegoals and objectives pertain to packaging of the company'sgenetically altered tomatoes, which require special handling. Meyer'soperations are not adequate for this packaging, he said.

Analyst George Dahlman of Piper Jaffrey & Hopwood in Minneapolissaid Calgene had initially felt that Meyer's operation would beadaptable, but as Calgene went through the commercializationprocess, it became apparent that the company would need its ownfacilities.

Meyer's contract will be discontinued at the end of the growingseason in November and will not affect Calgene's supply for plannedmarketing this fall. Calgene (NASDAQ:CGNE) of Davis, Calif., said itexpects to receive FDA approval of its food additive petition soon andwill then initiate a small-scale rollout in the Midwest. The companyplans to begin national distribution in 1994.

In 1990 Calgene requested that FDA issue an advisory opinion on thesafety of the kanamycin-resistant selectable marker gene, which isadded to the tomato to identify it as a genetically modified plant. Theantisense gene, which causes slower softening of the fruit, is attachedto the marker. As a procedural move, Calgene converted this requestto a food additive petition last January.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates the growing andtransportation of agricultural products, determined in October 1992that Calgene's Flavr Savr tomato did not require special regulation.

Calgene currently has about 13 contracts with independent growers,whose acreage replaces that provided by Meyer and the Floridagrower Taylor & Fulton, which also recently ended its contract withCalgene.

A Calgene spokesman explained that larger growers such as Meyercontract with independent growers, and that Calgene will now do sodirectly. This will enable Calgene to control the quality of the tomatofrom the field to the store, acting as grower, packer, shipper anddistributor, the spokesman said.

Meyer also has an agreement with DNA Plant Technology Corp.(NASDAQ:DNAP) of Cinnaminson, N.J., for producing non-bioengineered tomatoes, which it is renegotiating to includeproduction of genetically altered tomatoes. John Bedbrook, DNAP'sexecutive vice president and director of science, expects that hiscompany's tomato will be commercially available in early 1995.DNAP is not seeking FDA approval of a food additive petition, but isworking with the agency.

DNAP's strategy involves turning off the Accsynthase generesponsible for production of ethylene, a ripening hormone. Thecompany is also pursuing bioengineered carrots, cherry tomatoes,peppers and peas. Bedbrook said DNAP has a two-tiered approach toproduct development, first marketing vegetables that have beenimproved through accelerated breeding techniques and thenbioengineering them.

Calgene said it is also looking at other fruits and vegetables, includingmelons and berries, for potential bioengineering to delay softening.

Monsanto Co. and Zeneca (formerly ICI plc) of London are alsoworking on genetically engineered tomatoes, and Asgrow, thevegetable seed company division of Upjohn, is developing a squashgenetically engineered to resist a virus.

-- Brenda Sandburg News Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.