back to article Boffins BREAK BREAD's genetic code: Miracle of the loaves

A crack team of international boffins have done a "shotgun sequencing" of the wheat genome that will help increase wheat yields and thereby feed the world. Wheat harvest Wheat is one of the big three globally important foods, along with rice and maize, and it accounts for 20 per cent of the calories consumed by the entire …

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jai
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good timing

feed the world!

let them know it's christmas time!

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FAIL

Colour me unimpressed

Given that studies show that 1% of the world population is coeliac (mostly undiagnosed - its about 1 in 1500 of the population is diagnosed coeliac and it takes on average 9 years to reach that diagnosis) not to mention other forms of gluten intolerance, it strikes me that they should be working more on rice rather than wheat.

Of couse they could try to remove gluten from the genome, though that would completely stuff breadmaking and pasta.

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Re: Colour me unimpressed

I am the 99%.

Now make me a sandwich.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Colour me unimpressed

Er, as it is *only* 1% who are Coeliac, I think we should still be concentrating on bread.

As it happens my brother's ex was Coeliac, and utterly fucking mental she was too. Complete coincidence of course, but I'm hoping to find a non-nuts Coeliac to restore my faith.

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jai
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Re: Colour me unimpressed

wierd - cos a quick google suggests that 10% of the population are allergic to rice. so by that comparison, wheat is the better option.

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Re: Colour me unimpressed

How many can't eat rice? You probably won't know unless you live in a culture where rice is served for everything. Same for anything else.

And, hell, there's a percentage of people who can't touch water.

We can't cater perfectly to everyone with one single, ideal food. Not only that, it's INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS to do that because it would only take one crop disease to wipe us all out. But if we can increase wheat yields, that means more (or cheaper) food for 99% of people on the planet. That's hardly a bad thing.

Vegetarians, vegans, gluten-intolerant (which is something that, as you say, takes YEARS to diagnose, which suggests that it's a) not a common problem, b) not a life-altering problem - or you'd already be dead by the time they diagnosed it and c) highly likely to false diagnosis just to shut patients up), diabetics, nut-allergists, all these people have different dietary needs that aren't going to go away. But getting more wheat (and, after that, more rice, maize, whatever else) will pretty much solve an awful lot of "what the hell will we do when" problems for the vast, vast, vast majority of the world.

That said, the word "intolerant" to me is enough for me to switch off because it's SO over-used, you have no idea. I'm currently in a school and about 10-20% of the pupils have an "allergy" or an "intolerance" to something or other, rarely diagnosed fully by a genuine doctor. What they mean is "they don't like it", or even "it might have given them a little tummy upset once, when they picked it up off the floor and ate it anyway". Also, maintaining the internal medical information wiki, I can tell you that within two years, most of those cases will be found to be either not true, or just outright wrong. Hell, I've had to take people off the "could die if has nuts" lists before now because it's been found to be a load of rubbish when the parents are chased up for not filling their allergies forms in the next year.

The people who are intolerant to things in wheat, are most likely so because of over- or under-exposure (nut allergies are generally under-exposure in modern times because of stupid advise to not eat nuts while pregnant, not to give them to kids, and similar) or complete random chance. Similarly, any other food stuff in the same proportions can suffer similar consequences if you were to scale it up to the same level with enough people eating it.

That's part of how evolution works, you know. We all react to the environment in different ways and the little bird that, by random fluke of the genes, finds it can eat the worm that its friends don't eat because it tastes bad to them will end up evolving a whole tree of species that can eat that worm just fine. Or dying out because that worm is poisonous. That's how it works.

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Re: Colour me unimpressed

http://xkcd.com/149/

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This post has been deleted by its author

Facepalm

Re: Colour me unimpressed

The rice genome was published a decade ago, if that makes you any happier.

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Pirate

Just leaves the butter and bacon side of things.

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Don't forget the ketchup

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@Ginger

Splittist!

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Ketchup?

You mean brown sauce, methinks

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mmmmmmm ... bacon!

And of course chocolate, the other vegetable.

As a side note, ever try apple-smoked streaky bacon, crisp-fried & dipped in dark (~85%+) chocolate? Throw in a largish mug of freshly roasted coffee and you have the meal of the Gawd/esse/s ...

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Happy

Re: mmmmmmm ... bacon! (@jake)

Chocolate in a bacon buttie? Are you Aztec or something?

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Headmaster

"that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together."

Jonathan Swift, in Gulliver's Travels

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Trollface

B-but

That's genetic engineering, and we all know genetic engineered crops make you into a slave of the NWO! And they give you cancers and stop you from opening your ar*ehole chakra! And your aura will be very sad and might leave you!

(I am, of course, doing a rather ham-fisted attempt at joking, but there are plenty of nutters that will use the exact same arguments with a straight face.)

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Re: B-but

Not only that, but my incense refuses to smolder, and my crystals are getting ready to have a pout! My guru says that maybe a rub-down with her magic stones will help ... it's a steal at only US$100 per half hour.

But wait! If you order NOW ...

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Thumb Up

Re: B-but

Aaalmost complete . . . you needed to throw in a Monsanto reference for good measure.

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Re: B-but

Never mind! Monsanto will be laughing!

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Trollface

I wonder how many points the genome is worth on a Scrabble® board...

And is it in the official Scrabble® dictionary?

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Simpler way to feed the world:

Stop turning corn (maize) into vehicle fuel ... It absolutely blows my mind that humanity thinks that feeding cars is more important than feeding humans.

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Re: Simpler way to feed the world:

The price of corn was near a record low recently. The farmers are simply trying to return to profitability before more farms close down. Think of ethanol as a stop-gap measure to keep farms going while waiting for demand for food to pick up.

If you want to feel genuinely outraged, look at how much food gets thrown away every day. How can there be a shortage of food if we throw most of it in the trash?

Not that giving our food away is a great solution either. How can third-world farmers compete when we keep dumping free food in their market place? Why should they work their land for nothing?

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Boffin

Keep in mind genetic engineering is practiced by *two* groups worldwide

Those in 3rd world countries seeking to improve their countries crop yields/pesticide resistance.

Global agrichemicals companies seeking to cross sell (our corn is resistant to our super duper combined pesticide/herbicide/window cleaner and it's only 250% more expensive than the regular stuff, but its infertile so you'll need another batch next year).

which would be fine *if* those genes didn't have a nasty habit of leaking into the other species.

Except they do.

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Re: Keep in mind genetic engineering is practiced by *two* groups worldwide

I had an interesting chat with a local farmer a few months ago.

He told me he is growing several different types of wheat. Most notably spelt, but also emmer. "It grows everywhere, do not require antifungal treatment, no pesticides and no fertilization". I.e. bad for the chemical companies, but excellent for food production. Especially the past summers that have been extremely wet up here.

He went on to say that some of his customers have reported back that they can finally eat wheat buns again. I later looked up the topic of gluten allergy on wikipedia, and they claim that most people who think they are allergic to gluten are actually allergic to wheat and can eat spelt without any problems.

I remain skeptical towards modern farming. If we have to resort to a huge arsenal of chemicals to grow enough food, then maybe we need to take a careful look at our population growth? In my country we pay parents money for every kid they get. I think that is a silly thing to do.

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Re: Keep in mind genetic engineering is practiced by *two* groups worldwide

"He told me he is growing several different types of wheat. Most notably spelt, but also emmer. "It grows everywhere, do not require antifungal treatment, no pesticides and no fertilization". I"

If it gets the job done that's fine. The joker in the pack seems to be hardy wheats don't have the yield of the hybrids.

If you're a small holder just growing for yourself that's fine but as a commercial taking your wheat to a market as a product getting 2x the yield for the same land means 2x the cash. The question is would your loose all your increased profit in pesticide costs?

You might like to look at the history of plant breeding. Breeders were improving yields long before genetic engineering. Indeed the theory was laid with studies in pea species.

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And for the next part of the miracle ...

... the fishes.

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Meh

no point if the "we know best" mob are loose

the local greenies can use whippersnippers on research wheat types and get off with a warning because they are "concerned protesters". Not much point then in developing new types by fiddling with the genome. Unless one has armed guards or worse, secrecy over whats been growing and where, it can't be developed into something marketable.

Mind you, I do wonder what effects high yielding wheat types have on consumers and the soil ?

Ancient varieties were less likely to stress soil fertility.

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Terminator

Feed me, see more

or Feed me, Seymour?

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