The summer heat has been good for this season’s tomatoes — and a new patent for Arcadia Biosciences might be able to save that flavor in supermarkets.
The Davis agri-tech firm finalized a patent for a gene that affects the ripening pathways in tomatoes. About 10 to 35 percent of commercial fruit spoil before reaching kitchens. The altered Nor (non-ripening) gene in this strain of tomatoes will slow the process while still allowing for full flavor development, said Eric Rey, president and CEO of Arcadia Biosciences, which is based in Davis.
“The balancing act has always been between to increase storage life, but not so much so that tomatoes don’t ripen,” he said.
Arcadia used a chemical called ethyl methane sulfonate to trigger gene mutations in tomato seeds, finally pinpointing a mutation of the Nor gene that produced an altered protein to lengthen ripening time after the tomato is picked. While naturally occurring genes cannot be patented, ones unlikely to have occurred on their own — like this one — can, Rey said.
The company has leased the seed technology to Bioseed Research India, and the tomatoes could be on shelves as soon as 2016.