Saturday, June 2, 2012

An Overwhelming Need To Master 'Maters

You say tomato, I say new bio-genetic frontiers.

An international scientific team on Wednesday said it had unravelled the genetic code of the tomato, opening up ways to improve the fruit’s taste, nutrition and shelf-life.

Gathering more than 300 researchers in 14 countries, the Tomato Genome Consortium compared today’s domesticated tomato with its wild South American parent, Solanum pimpinellifolium.

The tomato has 35,000 genes, but there is only a variation of 0.6 percent between the wild variety and the supermarket variety of today, according to the study, appearing in the journal Nature.

The tomato is a member of the Solanaceae family, which includes other highly valuable crops such as the potato, pepper and aubergine, as well as spices and herbs that have a medicinal use.

A comparison showed that the tomato is just eight percent different, genetically, from the spud.

Agricultural researchers have been steadily sequencing important crops to pinpoint genes that affect taste, resilience to disease or ability to grow in different soils and climates.

This fast-tracks ways of including useful genes in new strains, either through genetic engineering — opposed in some countries — or through traditional cross-breeding.

So first of all, building a better tomato and using it to increase food yields across the globe?  Seems like a worthy goal to me.  Secondly, I'm totally naming my band "Tomato Genome Consortium".

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