DNA Plant Technology Corp. on Wednesday said it will bring itstissue culture-selected tomatoes to market by 1993, and haslicensed from the USDA a gene-altering technology that it willuse in genetically engineered tomatos that could reachsupermarkets two years later.

The Cinnaminson, N.J., company (NASDAQ:DNAP) had beendeveloping a fresh market tomato for Campbell Soup Co. underan agreement that gave each company the right to develop theproduct.

The soup manufacturer has not exercised its option. AlthoughDNAP does not have an exclusive license, it will proceed withadditional field trials and expects to be test marketing thefresh tomato in supermarkets next year, Richard Laster,chairman and chief executive, told BioWorld.

The USDA tomato was developed through somaclonal variationtechnology, in which tissue culture of cells from plants revealsdesired traits, which can then be selected for and grown in thefield.

Somaclonal technology speeds up trait selection compared totraditional plant breeding, yet does not require the regulatoryapprovals of genetic engineering. Such approvals will have tobe obtained for the DNAP fruits that will be produced with thegene-altered technology licensed from the USDA.

The USDA technology controls tomato ripening by blocking theproduction of ethylene gas inside the fruits. The altered gene,coding for ACC synthase, can control ripening in other fruits,vegetables, and flowers as well, said Laster.

The technology is exclusively licensed to DNAP for 15 types offruits and vegetables, and seven species of ornamental flowers.But the tomato license is co-exclusive, said Laster. "We are toldthere could be one or two other companies applying for thelicense," he said.

Competitor Calgene Inc. (NASDAQ:CGNE) has already filed forFDA permission to market its antisense tomato that resistsripening by slowing break down of pectin. Monsanto Co. isfield-testing tomatoes with a bacterial gene that inhibitsproduction of ethylene.

Laster estimated that DNAP would be able to market itsengineered tomato by 1995. Calgene is still targeting 1993 forintroduction of its product.

He predicted that DNAP's Fresh World joint venture with DuPont will give DNAP's products an advantaged distributionnetwork. The stock gained 38 cents to $7.50.

-- Roberta Friedman, Ph.D. Special to BioWorld

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