Researchers Explore Spicy Tomatoes Using Genetic Engineering

In studies underway, research scientists from Brazil and Ireland are looking to create spicy tomatoes. Thanks to genetic engineering, they have identified two possible genetic paths to transform regular tomatoes into a spicy new variety. This is an interesting development for the food world but also for health considerations.


Similar Origins

Tomatoes have shared ancestry with spicy peppers like the popular jalapenos. This makes the tweaks needed minimal and with a good chance of success, according to scientists working on the project. Tomatoes can be easily manipulated genetically, and this has a number of broad implications.

Motivations Behind the Research

For the culinary world, this could be an exciting development. This could transform how salsa and other spicy dishes are prepared. Many people love their food spicy, so having tomatoes that specially cater to this section of society could be worthwhile.

It’s not just the foodies who are loving this news. It has long been appreciated that spicy foods have a number of health benefits. The chemicals behind the hot taste are known as capsaicinoids. These have shown great potential for use in pepper spray and even in pain killers. These compounds are present in treatments for conditions such as arthritis and backaches.

There’s also an important horticultural consideration. Although chili peppers are a high demand product, they are not the easiest to cultivate nor are they highly productive. On the other hands, tomato cultivation is simpler and more high-yielding. This could be a promising way to meet the demand for capsaicinoids.

There’s still a lot of debate around the use of genetic engineering and concerns about consuming food that has been altered in this way. The researchers behind this new study are most excited about the potential to make tomatoes a biofactory to produce capsaicinoids, as reported in the journal Trends in Plant Science.

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