Tomatoes, believed to be the most popular fruit in the world, could be made to taste better and have a longer shelf life.
Professor Cathie Martin from the John Innes Centre and her colleagues researched tomatoes enriched in anthocyanin, a natural pigment that confers high antioxidant capacity.
The purple GM tomatoes have been found to prolong the lives of cancer-prone mice and in the new findings they have double the shelf life of normal tomatoes from an average of 21 days to 48 days.
Yang Zhang, lead author from the John Innes Centre, said that post-harvest losses because of rotting are so serious for growers and supermarkets that even an increased shelf life of 1 day will make a big difference for them.
In the study, anthocyanins were found to slow down the over-ripening process that led to rotting and softening, achieving a tomato with a long shelf life and full flavour.
The purple tomatoes were also less susceptible to one of the most important postharvest diseases, grey mould caused by Botrytis cinerea.
The findings can also be applied to other soft fruit like strawberries and raspberries.
The research will be published in published in Current Biology.