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Ventura County Review

Saticoy Company Gets USDA Approval for New Tomato

August 15, 1995|LEO SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Petoseed Co. Inc. of Saticoy has received USDA approval for a line of genetically improved processing tomatoes.

Petoseed combined its breeding technology with the bioscience expertise of Delaware-based Zeneca Plant Science to create a tomato with a thicker consistency for tomato paste, ketchup and sauce than that of ordinary tomatoes. USDA approval was received in late June.

Zeneca Plant Science is owned by the Zeneca Group PLC of the United Kingdom.

Randal Hauptmann, a biotech commercial manager at Petoseed, said a particular enzyme in the tomato is suppressed during the ripening stage, allowing the tomato to retain its pectin. Pectin is an important ingredient for the thickening of processed tomato products.

"Tomatoes usually make pectin, but as they get ripe or are being processed, the pectin degrades," said Hauptmann. "We have stopped that degradation process. We are essentially preventing the tomatoes from becoming soft and runny."

Hauptmann said the gene technology used to produce these tomatoes allows for more precise cross-breeding than traditional hybridization.

"It takes a lot of time to sort out the traits we do want from the one's we don't want," he said. "This [newer] kind of genetic engineering allows us to move the one trait we want into another plant without changing anything else."

The 45-year-old Petoseed Co., a leading developer of hybrid vegetable seeds, markets its products in 120 countries and employs about 1,300 people worldwide.

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