May 22

How Scientists Make Vegetables Tastier By Changing Their Genes


Nowadays, technology makes the world go round. Every morning the first thing we do is that we check the latest news on our smartphones. Many different applications allow people to communicate from other parts of the world. Whenever we get bored, we switch on our phone or laptop and proceed to different games or gambling with Cookie Casino login. The more people are born, the more food and technologies are created.

Any food might taste better now than it did when we were kids. But it’s not that we have matured. Just a new, less bitter variety has replaced the original food and all thanks to the breeders.

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These professionals now have many more tools at their disposal, from CRISPR gene editing to DNA sequencing. Read the Scientific American retelling of how these technologies help make fruits and vegetables tastier.

How It Used To Be And How It Is Now

In the late 1990s, scientists identified chemicals called glucosinolates that give Brussels sprouts their bitter taste. In order to find a tasty variety, where these compounds are less, breeders began to grow old seeds that had previously been abandoned due to poor harvests.

Then these plants were crossed with modern, more productive varieties. As a result, they found a tasty and “prolific” descendant. So, everyone’s unloved vegetable turned into a popular side dish.

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However, other vegetables were not so well received. The reason is that most breeding decisions are made in favor of producers, not consumers.

You could say that disease resistance is probably the main focus of most breeding programs right now. That’s what a farmer’s ability to grow a crop depends on. Qualitative characteristics are completely ignored.

Breeders who deal with consumer crops also face controversy related to GMOs, the genetically modified organisms. Although now all domesticated species have different genetics from their ancestors. In agriculture, the term GMO refers to plants that have received genes from completely different species. Such changes are subject to strict regulation. New methods allow you to work with your own plant genome, making changes that do not fall under these rules.

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It is not easy to change the taste. Different people have different preferences. In addition, even under the best conditions, it is much more difficult to achieve certain taste qualities than, for example, high yields. Scientists have spent a lot of time and money figuring out what taste is, and most breeding programs don’t have that capability. Nevertheless, interest in this area is growing. This is partly due to the advent of technologies such as CRISPR gene editing and DNA sequencing, which are quite cheap.

Now is the best time for fruit and vegetable breeders because they have more tools and methods.

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Choose The Right Genes

With these tools, some companies create tastier vegetables. For example, Pairwise fights with glucosinolates, the same compounds that make Brussels sprouts bitter. This time, researchers are modifying lettuce greens and are also armed with the science of gene editing. While kale is especially healthy, many prefer the less bitter romaine and iceberg salads. So Pairwise figured out how to use CRISPR to change the taste of kale-like mustard greens.

Scientists have disabled the genes encoding an enzyme called myrosinase, which breaks down glucosinolates and creates bitterness when the leaf is chewed. The result is a healthy yet less bitter green that is marketed under the Conscious Foods brand.

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According to Pairwise founder and CEO Tom Adams, gene editing can successfully remove what people don’t like. But to create more complex flavors, traditional breeding is better.

Vertical Farms

Traditional breeding is being used by another company, Plenty, which is also trying to improve the taste with high technology. Its goal is to change the mindset that led us to tasteless vegetables in the first place.

Instead of growing varieties suitable for storage and transport, Plenty reduces the distance between the field and the table. The company grows plants in indoor vertical farms closer to consumers. It keeps products fresher, says Nate Storey, Plenty’s founder and chief scientist.

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Plenty decided to start with the greens, Storey says, and her team has grown thousands of traditional varieties on their farms. The researchers then selected those that gave the most delicious harvest without breeding new varieties.

However, this is not always possible. For example, the method did not work for tomatoes, so the company creates its own variety using an accelerated version of traditional breeding.

Food problems can be forgotten and left in the past with the latest technologies. Another question is how to use such technologies and what the influence will be on our health.





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