Tomatoes that don't rot discovered in France

Syngenta researchers in France discovered a tomato that never rots
In the moist, stifling greenhouse heat, Sylvain Bontems surveys his FW13, codename for a honey-coloured tomato that does not rot but slowly becomes candied. ''This tomato behaves like a date, it loses it's water, it's sugar content rises. It becomes candied without rotting''. 

Consumers are obviously not ready to buy wilted tomatoes but they do taste like jam. The researcher works for Swiss group Syngenta, and is based in Avignon. The agrochemical giant has chosen the region for its cold soil in Spring and warm, dry, sunny summers. ''The new varieties must resist to temperature variations'' explains Régis Cambon, Head of the station.

In the pepper greenhouse Matthieu Nicolas explains that ''to create a pepper that is resistant to odium, a crop fungus, we found the gene in a wild pepper. We then needed 15 years to be successful in introducing it into a square pepper''. It may seem easy to make a new fruit, but it demands a lot of techniques. One must first find the interesting varieties in catalogues or in nature, and then try to identify their genetic characteristics. ''The arrival of genotyping 15-20 years ago revolutionised the field and allowed us to work with a larger diversity'' adds Matthieu Nicolas However 10-15 years of research is always needed before commercialisation. Seed producers such as Syngenta, Monsanto and Vilmorin spend billions on research. In Switzerland alone the budget is $1.25 billion/year, i.e. 8-12% of their turnover.

Every year 600 new varieties are added to the French catalogue (9,000 are already there). These come from large seed producers as well as more modest groups or from public research.


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