You will have read claims about GM crops with supposed nutritional benefits. Two of the most hyped are golden rice and GM tomatoes with supposed anti-cancer properties. These crops have not, however, been commercialised, even though in the case of Golden Rice it has been promoted as a life-saver for over a decade.

But while stories about GM "miracles" are lapped up uncritically by the media, non-GM research into solving exactly the same kind of problems seems to get minimal if any reporting, even though it has been far more successful.

Of course, a note of caution needs to be struck about food faddism. The supposed benefits of foods we've been told are healthy in the past have often later been brought into serious question. Even beta carotene, the friendly substance found in yellow and green vegetables, is presented by different authorities as variously a cancer fighter and a cancer promoter.

In all cases, biofortified and neutraceutical foods are no substitute for a balanced, varied diet. People need a variety of nutrients in order to absorb and utilise the target nutrient. For example, people could not convert beta-carotene in a potential GM beta-carotene-enriched food into vitamin A without having enough fat in their diet, and malnourished people are unlikely to have access to fat.

If a fraction of the money and resources that are devoted to trying to develop GM "biofortified" foods were devoted to ensuring that people have access to a varied diet, there would be significantly less hunger in the world.

But for those who are attracted by the idea of "neutraceutical" foods, we don't need GM. Here are some non-GM examples of supposed "superfoods".

Ahi flower

Novel omega-3-rich crop launched in the UK (October 2015)


Non-GM beta-carotene-enriched bananas have long been available – the GM version is an example of biopiracy (October 2014)


Nutritionally superior non-GMO barley rolled out on European market (July 2020)

Beer brewers toast Australian gluten-free barley (April 2016)


Nyota Iron Bean is Kenya's "shining star" for better nutrition (June 2022)

Get more iron and flavour out of your beans (2021)

The Manteca Yellow Bean: A genetic resource of fast cooking and high iron bioavailability phenotypes for the next generation of Andean dry beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) (2018)

Non-GM iron-rich beans for Rwanda (April 2010)


Super-broccoli with high levels of chemicals credited with warding off cancer, health problems (October 2011)


Cassava enriched with extra beta-carotene will be launched in 2011 by HarvestPlus (November 2010)


Cowpeas bred for extra-early maturity, high protein and high yield potential with resistance to major diseases and aphids, as well as high levels of tolerance to heat and drought, for tropical and subtropical countries (April 2013)


More nutritious, natural flavour, non-GMO provitamin A-enhanced "orange corn" launches in US markets (February 2019)

Vitamin A orange maize improves night vision (October 2016)

Development of vitamin A biofortified maize through molecular breeding (March 2015)

Suntava non-GMO purple corn packs nutritional punch (February 2015)

Natural gene selection can produce orange corn rich in provitamin A for Africa, US (October 2014)

Non-GM beta-carotene enriched orange maize (September 2010)
Designed to help vitamin A deficiency.

Vitamin A equivalence of the β-carotene in β-carotene–biofortified maize porridge consumed by women. Shanshan Li, Angela Nugroho, Torbert Rocheford and Wendy S White. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (September 1, 2010).

Iron-fortified non-GM maize cuts anaemia rates in children (May 2007)
Fortifying cereals with a type of iron supplement reduces anaemia, iron-deficiency anaemia and general iron deficiency in children in developing countries, according to new research.


High-iron biofortified pearl millet released in India (July 2013)

High-iron pearl millet update (August 2011)

Millet rich in iron will be launched in 2011 by HarvestPlus (November 2010)


Major company shows interest in “super pea” (March 2016)

Peas that will help animals absorb more protein from their diet (August 2015)


Researchers say they have invented non-allergenic peanuts (August 2014)

Non-GM process for allergen-free peanuts (June 2014)
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has signed a licensing agreement with Xemerge for a patented process that reduces allergens in peanuts by 98%.

US scientists develop low-allergy peanuts (June 2010)
Scientists in the US are developing "low-allergy" peanuts, offering hope to thousands of people with allergies associated with the popular seed.


Purple potato packs a health punch (May 2016)

Non-GMO purple potatoes offer fresh sales opportunity (December 2015)

USDA scientists develop anthocyanin-rich red and purple potatoes – and they're available now (December 2014)

"Healthy" non-GM purple potato goes on sale in UK supermarkets (October 2010)

UK scientists breed non-GM purple potato (January 2009)
A purple potato high in antioxidants has been developed by scientists at the Scottish Crop Research Institute.


This Hyderabad farmer has won a patent for Vitamin D-enriched rice and wheat (February 2021)
(This is an applied nurtients approach rather than a breeding success)

Mapping the way to even healthier (mineral-rich) rice (May 2013)

Low arsenic rice discovered in Bangladesh could have major health benefits (February 2013)

Malaysian scientists develop high yielding non-GM red rice with low glycaemic index for diabetics (April 2012)

New non-GM rice strain could help atopic dermatitis and diabetes (December 2009)
The rice contains highly concentrated Cyanidin-3-Glucoside or C3G which is known to ease symptoms of atopic dermatitis and diabetes.


Scientists have created new variety of low-allergenic soybean – and it’s non-GMO (May 2015)

Swiss develop healthier, more digestible soybean (December 2010)

New soybeans bred for oil that's more heart-healthy (September 2010)
USDA and university scientists have conventionally bred new soybean lines to have high levels of oleic acid, meaning more monounsaturated fat, allowing less need for resorting to hydrogenation.

Sweet potato

How the humble orange sweet potato won researchers the World Food Prize (June 2016)
Non-GMO sweet potatoes for Africa are rich in beta-carotene, a vitamin A precursor.

Saving lives in Africa with the humble sweet potato (August 2012)

Magic mash: reducing child malnutrition with sweet potatoes (February 2015)

Smallholder farmers in Mozambique are growing nutritious and lucrative varieties of orange-fleshed sweet potato, which are are high vitamin, flood-resistant and produce double normal yields (December 2014)

Orange beta carotene-enriched sweet potato a hit in Mozambique (November 2011)

Beta carotene-enriched sweet potato already improving health, self-sufficiency in Solomon Islands (July 2010)

Gates Foundation supports non-GM beta carotene-rich sweet potato in Africa (April 2006)
HarvestPlus received a US$ 6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to introduce a nutritionally improved staple food - orange-fleshed sweet potato - into the diets of the undernourished in East Africa. As of November 2010, the sweet potato is already on the market. 2011 update: Orange sweet potatoes not just for Africa.


Purple "anti-ageing" tomatoes available in British supermarkets (May 2014)

Purple anthocyanin-rich anti-cancer tomato – seeds are actually on the market (January 2012)

Another non-GM anti-cancer purple tomato (December 2011)
Brazilian researchers have developed a purple tomato high in anthocyanins and vitamin C, nutrients that are thought to have anti-cancer properties.

Non-GM anti-cancer supertomato (July 2010)
Italian producers have unveiled a new 'supertomato' which they claim has the potential to slow the aging process as well as offering better quality and taste.

High beta-carotene non-GM tomatoes for West Africa (March 2009)
The Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center - The World Vegetable Center has released the results of the evaluation of 20 tomato lines for adoption in West Africa. The testing is a part of a project on Vegetable Breeding and Seed Systems for Poverty Alleviation in sub-Saharan Africa.


Mapping the way to even healthier (mineral-rich) rice (May 2013)


New zinc-fortified wheat set for global expansion to combat malnutrition (April 2021)

This Hyderabad farmer has won a patent for Vitamin D-enriched rice and wheat (February 2021)
(This is an applied nurtients approach rather than a breeding success)

Low-gluten wheat alternative ‘miracle grain’ presents ‘clear market opportunity’ (June 2019)

Zinc-enriched wheat will be launched in 2011 by HarvestPlus (November 2010)