A genetically-modified tomato which was the first genetically engineered whole food to be granted a licence for human consumption; it was also subjected to premarket scrutiny by the FDA, which ordinarily evaluates food additives
In the 1990's, the techniques of molecular genetic engineering (GE) were first used to create tomatoes with delayed ripening for longer shelf-life (which means less wastage), and although the attempts were technically successful, overall the tomato, dubbed the Flavr Savr, wasn't very good and flopped commercially.
"While the first genetically modified crop--the Flavr Savr tomato--was approved by the FDA 22 years ago, most consumers still remain confused and uncertain about what a GMO is, and how they play into the organic landscape," said Mark Pins, marketing director and vice president of sales at Olivia's Organics.
The first bioengineered food was Calgene, Inc.'s FLAVR SAVR tomato, which has been modified by a reduction of an enzyme that degrades pectin along with the addition of a new protein and overall, the FDA evaluated the data and information provided by Calgene, Inc., to determine whether the tomatoes have been significantly altered, ultimately deciding that the FLAVR SAVR is as safe as natural tomatoes.
The Flavr Savr tomato--the first genetically modified crop to be approved in the United States, back in 1994--harnessed the mechanism to block an enzyme that makes tomatoes soft, so they could ripen longer on the vine.
There are several reasons for splicing genes, from enhancing a rice grain with vitamin A in order to respond to the Vitamin A deficiency in China (the Golden Rice) to developing a tomato (Flavr Savr) that maintains its flavor with less chance of spoilage.