Anti-Oxidants Rich, Non-GMO Tomatoes

Hirschberg Joseph, HUJI, Faculty of Science, The Alexander Silberman Institute for Life Sciences
Zamir Daniel, HUJI, Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences, Plant Sciences and Genetics



  • Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment that provides health benefits as a dietary anti-oxidant, and is also a preventive agent against degenerative diseases. Specifically, it is thought to inhibit the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most prevalent cause of blindness in developed countries.
  • The major sources of zeaxanthin in our diet are red peppers and yellow corn that contain low zeaxanthin concentrations of ca. 5-10 micrograms/gr fresh weight (μg/g FW). Although there is no recommended daily intake value for zeaxanthin, the most recent studies show health benefits when consuming 2 mg/day supplement. The challenge is to provide a cheap and readily available source of natural zeaxanthin, for both fresh consumption as well as for industrial production.
  • The tomato is the largest vegetable crop in the world and a major source of carotenoids in our diet. Breeding tomatoes with high levels of zeaxanthin will provide a sustainable and inexpensive source of this phytochemical for global consumption and production.

Our Innovation

A novel tomato variety that accumulates high levels of the natural phytochemical zeaxanthin.  Our technology is based on classical breeding techniques using unique genetic mutations and DNA markers. The zeaxanthin tomatoes will not be considered “genetically modified” (GMO), thus the fruits and extracts should face no marketing limitations.     


Tomato fruits accumulate the red carotenoid pigment lycopene. We used classical genetic breeding methods with mutations that alter carotenoid production to achieve zeaxanthin levels that are as high as 39 μg/g FW.

Our currently available zeaxanthin tomato is the first demonstration of a high-level source of zeaxanthin in a non-GMO tomato fruit, and already has commercial viability. The only precedent of zeaxanthin enrichment in tomato was reported in GMO plants (8-13 μg/g FW).

Our goal is to develop a tomato cultivar, i.e. a commercial variety, presenting even higher levels of zeaxanthin, based on this prototype, through conventional breeding techniques.

The Opportunity

  • The zeaxanthin tomatoes will be valued as high-nutritional vegetables
  • Fresh market vegetables
  • Raw material for industrial extraction of non-transgenic tomato phytochemicals
  • We expect, based on our past color breeding, that we will be able to increase the level of zeaxanthin up to 70 μg/g FW.






Patent Status

Published WO 2021/048844 A1

Contact for more information:

Ilya Pittel