THE BLOG
06/26/2013 01:15 pm ET Updated Aug 24, 2013

Retro Report: The Test Tube Tomato

In May 1994, a tomato appeared on supermarket shelves across the country that was unlike anything Americans had eaten before. Grown from so-called "Flavr Savr" seeds, it was the first genetically engineered food approved for sale, dreamed up by a group of scientists in a California lab.

The new tomato promised a clear benefit: a longer-lasting, better-tasting fruit. And as biotech pioneers looked on, its approval from the Food & Drug Administration ushered in a multi-billion dollar industry with the potential to rethink how we grow crops.

But today, the tomato is nowhere to be found, and a growing segment of the population is wary of technology that once fascinated. What happened to the Flavr Savr, and what does it tell us about the industry it birthed?

"The Flavr Savr showed biotech pioneers what not to do on the business side," said producer Matthew Spolar. "But had it been a success, it may have changed the way the public thinks about GMO foods today."

The story of the rise and fall of the first genetically modified food approved for sale in the United States is the eighth in a series by Retro Report, a non-profit documentary company that revisits stories that once dominated the news cycle.

Olivia is a reporter at Retro Report.