FAQs

Question Where does the name ‘Beneforté’ come from?
 
Answer The name Beneforté alludes to the nutritional benefit of our broccoli and to the Italian origins of the wild broccoli from which it was developed. ‘Bene’ comes from the word benefit or beneficial and in Italian, the word ‘forte’ means ‘strong’. We think the name nicely sums up our naturally better broccoli.
   
Question Who is behind Beneforté?
 
Answer

Bringing Beneforté to the supermarket shelves has involved lots of people. These include two of the UK’s leading research institutes – the Institute of Food Research and the John Innes Centre (both on the Norwich Research Park) - who conducted research into how to make broccoli better; the John Innes Centre’s technology transfer company PBL, which has nurtured the project since its earliest stages and put in place the commercial partnerships to develop the new broccoli; Seminis Vegetable Seeds Inc who produce the seeds; the British farmers who grow it and the supermarkets in bringing the produce to the public. Each has played a big part in bringing Beneforté to market in the UK.

Question How was Beneforté broccoli developed?
 
Answer

In the early 1980s, Professor Richard Mithen, who now works at the Institute for Food Research, was part of a scientific team seeking to conserve the genetic diversity of wild brassica species. Seeds from these wild populations which were threatened with extinction were collected and stored in Italian and Spanish seedbanks. When Richard Mithen was a researcher at the John Innes Centre, he used one of those wild broccoli varieties from Southern Italy to cross-pollinate with commercial broccoli and one of the offspring from this cross became the parent of Beneforté.

Question What does the cross-pollination involve?
 
Answer

Cross-pollination is the natural process whereby pollen from one plant is used to fertilise the flower of another plant. Pollen from the wild broccoli was used to fertilise the flower of the standard broccoli, and seeds from this cross were used to develop Beneforté.  This process of cross pollination and selection is how all our current vegetable, fruit and cereal crops are developed.  It is a natural process and does not involve any “GM” technology.

Question Was GM technology used to develop Beneforté?
 
Answer

No. Beneforté was developed using conventional breeding without the use of genetic modification technology. The traits that make it more nutritious came from a wild broccoli variety which was bred in to modern broccoli varieties using conventional breeding techniques. That is not to say the IFR is against GM technology. The Institute of Food Research supports on-going and future research in GM as it could have a significant role to play in a sustainable, safe food supply in the future and one that can help address important health issues. 

Question Does Beneforté look like other broccoli?
 
Answer

Yes it has the same appearance of standard broccoli with a green head and thick green stalks. 

Question Does Beneforté taste the same as other broccoli?
 
Answer

Beneforté tastes great, just like ordinary broccoli. Tests have shown that people either cannot detect a different flavour or taste between Beneforté and standard broccoli, or actually prefer the flavour of Beneforté. This is likely to be due to subtle changes in the levels of different sulphur compounds. 

Question How should I eat Beneforté?
 
Answer

It’s perfect for your favourite broccoli dishes and can be prepared the same as other broccoli varieties.  Beneforté broccoli tastes great lightly steamed or briefly microwaved.  Steaming and microwaving are also the best ways to get the most benefit from Beneforté.

Question Don't vegetables begin to loose their nutrients when you cook them?
 
Answer

It is a commonly believed myth that the very best way to get nutrients from fruit and vegetables is to eat them raw. In fact cooking them can sometimes make it easier for the body to extract the nutritional benefit through digestion. To get the best benefit from Beneforté it is recommended that you eat the product lightly steamed or microwaved.  Steaming broccoli for three to four minutes, so it remains slightly firm, is recommended to maximise the health promoting potential.

Question Are you conducting more research to prove the health benefits of this product?
 
Answer

We have studies underway in which we are comparing the health-promoting effects of Beneforté compared to standard broccoli. 

Question Are there any side effects from ingesting glucoraphanin or sulforaphane?
 
Answer

No.

 
Question Aren't Glucosinolates, the group of compounds which glucoraphanin belongs to, toxic?
 
Answer

Glucoraphanin is a one type of a group of compounds called glucosinolates, present in many plants, particularly the cruciferous vegetables and related species, such as mustard and oilseed rape. There are over 120 different types of glucosinolates.  Some of these, but not glucoraphanin, may have some adverse effects if fed in large quantities to animals, but this is not practiced in the animal feed industry. 

Question Is this the 'cancer fighting broccoli' we've heard about in the press in the past?
 
Answer

Yes. High-glucoraphanin broccoli has been referred to as ‘cancer fighting’, as the media has followed this scientific research for a number of years. While dietary glucoraphanin delivered by Beneforté indeed may be able to reduce risk of cancer, our current studies at IFR are focussed on its heart health promoting activities. We are beginning a study in conjugation with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to see if Beneforté broccoli can improve the health of men with localised prostate cancer.

Question If I don't want to buy Beneforté, what's the healthiest alternative I can buy from the supermarket?
 
Answer

As part of a healthy diet you should eat at least 5 portions of different fruit and vegetables a day, to get a range of different vitamins and nutrients. Broccoli is the only vegetable to contain meaningful quantities of glucoraphanin. However, the levels of glucoraphanin in ordinary broccoli are typically lower (Beneforté contains 2-3 times more) and may also be variable due to soil and growing conditions. 

Question Where is Beneforté grown?
 
Answer

Beneforté is grown by British farmers in Lincolnshire and Fife for part of the year.  In the colder months when it isn’t possible to grow broccoli outdoors in the UK, Beneforté is like most of our fresh vegetables at that time of year, grown in Spain and Italy, two of the world’s largest producers of broccoli.

Question How can it be the same product if it grown in a different place, in different soil?
 
Answer

In the winter months Beneforté is grown in Spain and Italy, where the winter conditions are very similar to those of a British summer. During the winter the growing process is still overseen and managed by the same British companies who already supply broccoli to UK supermarkets.  We feel it’s important to work with the tried and tested methods of British broccoli producers who have been supplying fresh broccoli for many years. Extensive field trial results have shown that the levels of glucoraphanin in Beneforté are reliably 2-3 higher than ordinary broccoli in all of the growing locations.

Question If the product is grown abroad for part of the year, don't you worry about the environmental impact or 'food miles'?
 
Answer

In fact, the process of growing outdoors in Italy and Spain and then shipping the product back to the UK during the winter has a far lower environmental impact than growing broccoli in greenhouses in Britain. Due to energy needed to light and heat greenhouses in Britain during the winter months, growing abroad is far better for the environment and produces a naturally better broccoli crop. This is not just the case for broccoli, but for almost all fresh vegetables in UK shops in the winter – but it allows the year-round availability of fresh vegetables that is so important for a healthy diet.

Question Is Beneforté organic?
 
Answer

If required, Beneforté can be grown organically, just as well as it can be grown with any other farming practice. Farmers growing it organically would usually get a smaller harvest so the price for shoppers would be higher, and all year round availability could be difficult to achieve too. Beneforté is grown by experienced farmers who supply many other vegetables and use the most up to date sustainable farming methods to produce a nutritious crop while looking after their land and the wider environment.  For example, some growers use the offcuts from vegetables to generate power.

Question Can I buy seeds to grow Beneforté myself at home or in my allotment?
 
Answer

Not at present. Plug plants may become available to the home gardener sometime in the future.

Question Who benefits from the sales of Beneforté?
 
Answer

This high glucosinolate broccoli variety is the subject of patents filed by Plant Bioscience Limited (PBL), on behalf the John Innes Centre, where it was initially developed by Prof Richard Mithen. In 2000, PBL licensed rights under these patents to Seminis Vegetable Seeds to commercialise the broccoli variety and bring it to market.

The IFR and JIC are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The BBSRC has a policy on how scientists can be rewarded as a result of their research.  The policy explains its responsibilities to ensure the optimal and successful application of the research it funds and to ensure the widest benefit to society and the economy. The BBSRC devolves this to the host institutions; in the case of Beneforté the John Innes Centre, who in turn entrust commercialisation to PBL. Both BBSRC and JIC are shareholders in PBL, and PBL’s mission is to protect and commercialise innovations emerging from public research, in order to benefit society and provide a return to fund further public scientific research. Under this policy the John Innes Centre and Professor Mithen receive payments from PBL in respect of the commercialization of Beneforté broccoli.

In addition, Seminis Vegetable Seeds, the growers who cultivate process and distribute the broccoli and the retailers also benefit financially from sales of Beneforté. The details of these separate commercial arrangements are covered by confidential contractual agreements. This general arrangement is behind most products on sale in our supermarkets.

Question Are the institutes conducting the research into the benefits of Beneforté all being paid by the company/companies who are selling it?
 
Answer

No.  Much of the ongoing programme of phytonutrient research at the Institute of Food Research (Norwich) receives UK government funding via the BBSRC.  BBSRC is the UK’s principal funding agency for the biological sciences in British Universities and research institutes.  Some, but not all, of the research on the nutritional benefits of Beneforté broccoli is supported by grants from Seminis Vegetable Seeds Inc. and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Question Isn't this an example of large companies benefitting from public investment?
 
Answer

The IFR defends its independence and the presence of industry funding isn’t allowed to affect the design, conduct or reporting of our studies. We report our findings in peer-reviewed journals, in which independent scientists unconnected with the study or the IFR review the scientific integrity of our research and the conclusions we derive from it in our papers before they can be published. All funders are declared in these papers.

We need to work with industrial partners to ensure that our research findings can be successfully translated from the laboratory to the supermarket aisle and consumers. Seminis Vegetable Seeds Inc. are experts in commercial vegetable breeding, and their input was needed to turn the initial made at the John Innes Centre into a commercially viable product that has the characteristics that consumers, growers and retailers all see in currently grown broccoli varieties. We need to work with these partners to carry out these processes in just the same way we rely on commercial growers to cultivate large amounts of the broccoli, and retailers to deliver it to consumers.

Beneforté broccoli was recently highlighted in the UK Government’s strategy for agricultural technologies as an example of government and industry working in partnership.

The IFR sees industrial funding as a valuable contribution to its impact and the delivery of science for social and economic benefit. When working with industry we will not undertake work that undermines or detracts from IFR’s independent position, for example by undertaking work not aligned to our mission or publishing findings that we believe are not supported by the data.

Question Who owns Seminis?
 
Answer

The Seminis brand is part of Monsanto’s Vegetable Seeds Division which provides improved quality and productivity of vegetables through breeding. Monsanto plant breeders develop Seminis vegetable seeds that offer consumers healthy choices with added flavour and additional nutritional benefits and well as benefits for farmers such as greater yield and crop disease resistance.  

About Institute of Food Research, Norwich

The mission of the Institute of Food Research, www.ifr.ac.uk, is to be an international leader in research that addresses the fundamental relationships between food and health, food and the gut and the sustainability of the food chain in order to further the production of safe, healthy foods.

IFR is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. IFR received a total of £12.7M investment from BBSRC in 2012-13.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £467M (2012-2013), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

About John Innes Centre, Norwich

The John Innes Centre, www.jic.ac.uk, is a world-leading research centre based on the Norwich Research Park http://www.norwichresearchpark.com. The JIC’s mission is to generate knowledge of plants and microbes through innovative research, to train scientists for the future, and to apply its knowledge to benefit agriculture, human health and well-being, and the environment. JIC delivers world class bioscience outcomes leading to wealth and job creation, and generating high returns for the UK economy. JIC  is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and received a total of £36.6M investment in 2012-13.

About PBL – Plant Bioscience Limited

PBL, www.pbltechnology.com,is the JIC’s technology transfer company and has built the development partnerships with the seeds, farming and grocery industries to bring Beneforté to market. PBL was formed in 1994, and is now jointly and equally owned by the John Innes Centre, The Sainsbury Laboratory and the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council). PBL invests in and manages the transfer of new innovations for many public research organisations around the world.