DNA Plant Technology Corp. will begin to test-market itsVinesweet tomato, a product of its cell-tissue culturetechnology, in four U.S. cities next year.

Robert Serenbetz, DNAP's president and chief executive, claimsthe Vinesweet tomato has the optimum balance betweensweetness and acidity and is firm enough to withstandhandling during harvest. It was developed using DNAP'ssomaclonal variation technology.

This technology, which generates new plants from cellsextracted from leaves or other plant tissue, allows for thedevelopment of new varieties. As the plants are regenerated,some genetic variability is expressed. Plants with the mostdesirable characteristics are introduced into a growing andbreeding program.

DNAP's Vinesweet tomato is the result of the first part of atwo-phase strategy to develop an enhanced tomato. In a secondphase, the company plans to use its patented Transwitch genesuppression method to enhance shelf life and flavor byinhibiting the expression of the ACC synthase gene, which leadsto the production of ethylene and the onset of ripening.

Serenbetz said he doesn't expect Vinesweet tomatoes to enterthis second phase, which employs recombinant DNA methods,until 1994-95 because of the uncertainty of the FDA's proposedguidelines covering genetically engineered foods.

"We don't have a firm sense of what the regulatory atmospherewill be," said Serenbetz. "There are a lot of consumer advocacygroups that have taken a negative view (of geneticallyengineered foods)."

DNAP of Cinnaminson, N.J., is developing its tomato for thesupermarket, and pricing will be determined at the completionof the consumer test marketing. Serenbetz expects the price tobe positioned between commercial and gourmet tomatoes.

-- Michelle Slade Associate Editor

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