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Modified Purple Tomato May Be Coming to Your Grocery Store

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Sept. 23, 2022 — No matter how you slice it, a genetically engineered purple tomato just got one step closer to showing up in U.S. grocery stores.

The U.K. company developing the new purple fruit has passed a first test with U.S. regulators, demonstrating that genetic changes to the tomatoes do not expose the plants to a greater risk for pest damage.

The purple tomatoes are the first to pass the new SECURE law in the United States. The SECURE Act became law in phases between May 2020 and October 2021. The new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules update how the agency reviews genetically modified foods, focusing more on the food itself than the process used to create it.

More Than Skin Deep

Not to be confused with tomatoes with purple skin only, the tomatoes are purple inside and out. Genes taken from the purple snapdragon plant provide the color and boost levels of anthocyanins. Norfolk Plant Sciences says the tomatoes contain 10 times more of this antioxidant than ordinary tomatoes, and therefore provide additional health benefits.

Also known as “super tomatoes,” the purple tomatoes can now be imported, cross state lines, and be “released” into the environment. The company plans to provide seed packets to home gardeners once they receive final regulatory approval.

Norfolk used a common agricultural bacterium, aptly named agrobacterium, to deliver the genetic changes to the Micro Tom tomato variety. Next, the company introduced the same changes into other tomato varieties through cross breeding.

Some genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on grocery shelves can be hard to identify. Many are genetically changed to make them easier to ship or to last longer on shelves, but these properties do not change how they look. However, the deep purple tomatoes from Norfolk Plant Sciences will likely stand out in the produce aisle.

Move over, eggplant. You’re not the only purple fruit in town. (And yes, both are fruits.)

A Boost to Food Innovation?

“We are pleased that the USDA reviewed our bioengineered purple tomato and reached the decision that ‘from a plant pest risk perspective, this plant may be safely grown and used in breeding in the United States,'” says Nathan Pumplin, PhD, CEO of Norfolk Plant Science’s U.S.-based commercial arm.

“This decision represents an important step to enable innovative scientists and small companies to develop and test new, safe products with consumers and farmers,” Pumplin says.

The new federal law was designed to encourage innovation while reducing pest risks, says Andrew Walmsley, senior director for government affairs at the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“We have been genetically modifying plants and animals since we ceased being mostly hunters and gatherers,” Walmsley says. “Improved genetics provide a multitude of societal benefits including, but not limited to, more nutritious food.”

Concerns From the Non-GMO Camp

Not everyone is enthusiastic about these new tomatoes.

When asked what consumers should consider, “We want them to be aware that if this is a genetically modified product,” says Hans Eisenbeis, director of mission and messaging at the non-GMO Project, a nonprofit organization in Bellingham, WA, that verifies consumer products that do not contain GMO ingredients.

GMOs are pretty ubiquitous in our food system,” he says. “It’s important that [consumers] know this particular tomato is genetically engineered in case they are choosing to avoid GMOs.”

There are other ways to get high levels of anthocyanins, he says, including from blueberries.

Eisenbeis considers the SECURE law changes a “deregulation” of GMOs in agriculture, weakening the ability of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to regulate these products.

One concern is that the same mechanism used to genetically modify this plant could be used for others and “open up the door potentially for genetic applications that are entirely unregulated,” Eisenbeis says.

Acknowledging there are skeptics of GMO products, Pumplin says, “Skepticism can be a good start to learning when it is followed by gathering solid information. We encourage people to learn about the science-based facts of GMOs and the ways that GMOs can benefit consumers and the climate.”

“In addition, there are many non-GMO and Organic Certified products available on the market, and consumers who choose to avoid GMOs have many good choices,” Pumplin adds. “New products improved with biotechnology will offer extra choices to some consumers who are interested in the benefits.”

How Will They Stack Up?

Passing the first regulatory hurdle from the SECURE rule does not mean the purple tomatoes can start rolling into stores just yet. Regulation from several federal agencies could still apply, including the FDA, the EPA, and other divisions of the USDA. The tomatoes may also need to meet label requirements from the Agriculture Marketing Service.

Norfolk Plant Sciences voluntarily submitted a food and feed safety and nutritional assessment report to the FDA.

Time will tell what further hurdles, if any, the purple tomato will need to overcome before it can form a purple pyramid in your local produce aisle.

“We want to bring our tomatoes to market with care and without rushing them,” Pumplin says.

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Original Article: webmd.com

Health Care

Congress Under Pressure: Colorado Officials Push for Cannabis Banking Reform

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With the end of Congress’ session just around the corner, marijuana advocates, stakeholders and lawmakers continue to push for marijuana banking policy change.

This time, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) joined forces with Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera (D), Attorney General Phil Weiser (D), Treasurer Dave Young (D) and Department of Public Safety (DPS) Executive Director Stan Hilkey in urging congressional leaders to revisit the issue, reported Marijuana Moment.

In a letter sent on Monday to both House and Senate leaders, Colorado officials focused on the impact which a bipartisan marijuana banking bill will have in terms of public safety and industry equity,

“The lack of safe banking and financial services for the cannabis industry in the State of Colorado has become a dire public safety issue for highly regulated cannabis businesses operating in compliance with state …

Full story available on Benzinga.com

Original Post: benzinga.com

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New Data Shows Weed Legalization a Boon for Real Estate, New Jobs and Tax Revenue

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A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank shed light on the economic impact marijuana legalization has had in recent years, reported Marijuana Moment. Policy changes on the state level have resulted in increased commercial real estate demand, as well as a surge in tax revenues while creating more jobs.

According to an analysis from the Kansas City arm of the Central Bank, which collected data from several states under its jurisdiction, the Tenth Federal Reserve District, the cannabis industry has become one of the main economic sectors positioned to grow substantially in the coming period.

“Overall, the marijuana industry has had a significant effect on the economies of Tenth District states in the initial years after legalization,” the report said. “The emergence of the industry has …

Full story available on Benzinga.com

Article: benzinga.com

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Will Missouri Legalize Cannabis? Amendment 3 Suffers Another Attack This Time by State NAACP

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Cannabis legalization efforts in Missouri are under attack once again, this time by The Missouri State Conference of the NAACP.

What Happened

The Missouri NAACP, breaking with chapters in the St. Louis area is urging its members to vote against Amendment 3 on the Nov. 8 ballot, reported the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch.

The group announced Thursday that it believes recreational marijuana legalization, as it is proposed under Amendment 3, would prevent minorities from entering the cannabis industry. 

“Marijuana possession should not be a constitutional crime. Additionally, for years now, Black people, other minorities, and people who have been criminalized by marijuana laws in the past have been unable to enter the medical marijuana market,” the Missouri NAACP wrote. “That is not right. In an effort to prevent the permanent exclusion of minorities from the cannabis industry in the state of Missouri, the NAACP calls upon every voter to reject the criminalization of marijuana possession, de facto racist regulation of the cannabis market, and the wool being pulled over our eyes by the supporters of Amendment 3.”

Under Amendment 3, the first “comprehensive” cannabis business licenses would be provided to existing medical marijuana companies. 

The state’s chapter highlighted that the amendment “does not increase the number of available full market licenses” and claims that giving “micro” business licenses to disadvantaged groups makes a “very limited” program. 

According to Nimrod “Rod” Chapel Jr., president of the Missouri NAACP, members agreed last week …

Full story available on Benzinga.com

Source: benzinga.com

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