ABC News (Australia)
August 17, 2009

Victorian scientists have developed a new range of vegetables that have 40 per cent more anti-oxidants.

Anti-oxidants have been proven to reduce the risk of a range of diseases such as heart disease and some types of cancer.

The so-called "booster broccoli" is the first in a group of vegetables being developed by scientists at Victoria’s Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

DPI leading scientist Dr Rod Jones says the new broccoli is not the result of genetic engineering.

"All we’ve done is gone back and minded nature’s natural diversity," he said.

He said they formed partnerships with large companies and tested all of their varieties of broccoli and selected the one out of 400 tested with the highest anti-oxidant content.

Now they have started to breed that variety.

"It’s a premium branded product so the returns to growers should be higher," he said.

"It’s also about improving the health of our population in general by getting people to eat vegetables that we know are very good for them."

So far more than $20-million has been invested in the project.

There are another 15 products in commercial testing including tomatoes, capsicum and lettuce.

"So once those lines come through, plus all the other ones we’re looking at, cauliflower, onion, carrot, I don’t think it will take too long for the investment to be recouped," he said.

Dr Jones says the booster broccoli actually tastes good too.

"It tastes sweeter than most other broccoli varieties because it’s high in sugar."

He said Australian conditions are perfect for growing the new varieties because when the plants are stressed by a lack of water, the anti-oxidant level goes up.

He is confident they can eventually create a range of vegetables that have an even higher anti-oxidant content.