back to article Sweaties decode ultimate mystery of chips

Scottish boffins have decoded the full genome for the humble potato, opening the door for a new world of Scottish cuisine. The discovery could slash the time taken to breed new types of potato, if they can just get genetically modified crop-planting made legal. However, the information obtained could also be used to aid …


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  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Is this where they put genes form other species in?

    Prawn cocktail flavor spuds!

    "four sets of genomes, two from each parent, rather than just one from each parent as people do"

    Must resist jokes about the outer Hebrides.

  2. Mike 140

    a new world of Scottish cuisine.

    Mars bars have a genome?

    1. Harvardyard

      The English favourite

      Yes. From the same family as chip butties.

    2. Harvardyard


      Yes. The same family as greasy chip butties, the English favourite.

    3. Asgard

      @"Mars bars have a genome"

      They do if you leave them unwrapped long enough. :)

      Coat icon, with a mouldy Mars bar in the pocket. :)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    There is no such thing as non-genetically modified potato

    Any spud you buy has gone through a round of colhicine hybridisations or forced radiation induced mutations (or both) in the 1930es. While not as precise as modern techniques those are none the less similar in terms of creating something totally artificial and non-existent in nature. The only thing that is more artificial is the supermarket tomato.

    No wild potato has the number of chromosomes of any of the common spuds being grown around us.

    In fact, there is an interesting question here - which of all artificial potatoes did they sequence?

    1. sisk Silver badge

      Doesn't matter

      "In fact, there is an interesting question here - which of all artificial potatoes did they sequence?"

      It doesn't matter which one they sequenced. All potatos should have the same genome, just as all dogs have the same genome.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        All modern varieties of potatoes are interspecies hybrids produced through colhicine induction. Different breeders in different countries have used a number of_DIFFERENT_ wild species of potato which were not so susceptible to the Colorado beetle and force-hybridised that with the original 19th century "Bread of the Irish".

        I am going to repeat this - there is no such thing as defined (genetically) species of potato, different varieties have different large portions of different wild species genome in them and all of that has seen some directed selection using radiation to accelerate mutations on top of that.

        So in fact just walking down the isle in Sainsbury you are guaranteed to have at least 2-3 different potato genomes on the shelves.

        The only more artificial thing is the supermarket tomato.

  4. Torben Mogensen

    I wish....

    ...that makers of GM crops would focus on something other than resistance to herbicides. The last thing we need is more poison in agriculture -- they use plenty as it is.

    More interesting would be natural resistance to certain kinds of disease or a healthier composition, such a less starch and more protein. Or ability to grow in harsher climes. Or less reliance on fertilizer. And so on.

    But I guess there is more money in poison resistance -- you get not only to sell the GM crop but also the poison.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re:"I wish"

      It might look like a potato, walk like a potato and quack like a potato, I just wish to fuck it would taste like a potato.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Re: "I wish"

        "...walk like a potato and quack like a potato...."

        You may have gone a shade too far with your genetic tweaking there I fear....

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        "It might look like a potato, walk like a potato and quack like a potato, I just wish to fuck it would taste like a potato."

        I think I'd just settle for it not quacking while I'm trying to eat it.

    2. Michael Dunn

      Or self-peeling?

      That's it!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      More not less starch

      in Germany the company BASF is developing a potato with more starch. It is not edible anymore but perfect for processing in chemical plants ...

    4. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Torben Mogensen

      There's more than one kind of GM researcher.

      Not *all* of it is done by multinational agribusiness.

    5. Bassey

      Re: I wish.....

      "a healthier composition, such a less starch and more protein"

      Eh? Since when was starch unhealthy? Potatoes are one of the healthiest foods around. It's the process of deep-frying them in fat that makes them unhealthy. Unless the boffins can find a way of genetically modifying the spud to taste like a chip straight out of the ground there isn't a lot they can do about that.

  5. Barely registers

    Respect due...

    "Scottish boffins", please.

  6. Jencen

    I for one....

    Welcome our selectively bred potato overlords.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Or, given the obesity problem up there

      this could be shortened to "Scoffins"

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Thumb Up



        Quality. I nominate this as the new El Reg term for staff engaged in all food related research.

        But I can understand you posting AC for it.

    2. Harvardyard

      Respect due

      Oh the envy!

    3. Elmer Phud Silver badge


      Spuds You Like?

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    There are *two* types of GM.

    1) Herbicide resistance, allowing the farmer to spray without a broad spectrum herbicide safe in the knowledge that the cash crop (and *all* crops are about cash. Some can be eaten as well) will be unharmed.

    2)Improving resistance to natural environmental problems or improving nutritional value. Like allowing irrigation with brackish or sea water or increasing say the B vitamins.

    1) Is what agribusiness like Monsanto (or whatever they call themselves now) do. They also normally make the seed infertile, locking in the customer forever. If their customers have soil quality problems just drench it with fertilizer.

    2)Is practiced on a small scale by various 3rd world researchers and they don't want to hinder fertility. note that 2 is just as likely to incorporate genes from other species (EG getting frost resistance from arctic fish) as 1.

    One thing I'd love to find out more about is the rate at which engineered genes seep into other species. Remember that in bacteria the first antibiotic resistance appeared in 1947 and in Guatemala a single bacteria acquired resistance to 7 antibiotics simultaneously.

    1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

      Flowers Supposedly Reject...

      ... pollen from other species, but Roundup resistance is showing up in several weed species already.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        ".. pollen from other species, but Roundup resistance is showing up in several weed species already."

        Yes, that's the sort of thing I mean.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      "the rate at which engineered genes seep into other species"

      You mean like the gills I've grown from eating too much fish?

      Sorry, not trying to be an ass here but I'm really not following what you're talking about here. GM crops potentially interbreeding with non-GM crops *of the same species*... yeah I get that.

      If you're talking about GM resistances "forcing" - to use the term loosely - changes in the pests/diseases they're designed to combat then... yeah I get that too. But I'd hardly call that "[genes seeping into other species]" - it's not too different than, as you mention, antibiotic or pesticide resistance. Describing that as "[genes seeping]" seems completely, utterly inaccurate - and more than a little pejorative (i.e. FUD).

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        "the rate at which engineered genes seep into other species"

        To be correctly terminated that sentence should have ended "of plants" primarily of weeds.

        My apologies for triggering your English sentence parsing failure.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          John - did you even read my post?

          If you're talking Roundup and weeds... again, where do you get off implying that roundup resistance is due to "[gene seepage]" from Roundup Ready crops and not just a simple matter of normal resistance development caused by overuse of the herbicide?

          "farmers sprayed so much Roundup that weeds quickly evolved to survive it. “What we’re talking about here is Darwinian evolution in fast-forward,” Mike Owen, a weed scientist at Iowa State University, said." -

          "Since the introduction of Roundup Ready® crops in 1996 and the dramatic decrease in its price, glyphosate has been widely used for both burndown and in-crop weed control. This significantly increased the number of acres where glyphosate is used (see Figure 1) and greatly increased the potential for selecting glyphosate-resistant weeds.... glyphosate-resistant weeds can occur even though the gene for resistance is rare" -

          "with any herbicide, the more it's used, the more likely it'll run into individual plants within a species that have just enough genetic variation to survive what kills most of their relatives. With each generation, the survivors represent a larger percentage of the species." -

          Again I say FUD, and my apologies for triggering your obviously huge ego. Tell me more about this magical "[gene seepage in plants]"... I'm assuming this is original research but hey, this isn't Wikipedia so we don't need to be picky right?

          1. Disco-Legend-Zeke


            Roundup had been used for decades prior to the introduction of GM cotton varieties.

            It was applied by hand to individual weed plants by a crew of 4-6 people. There were no reports of resistance development.

            1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


              "Roundup had been used for decades prior to the introduction of GM cotton varieties.

              It was applied by hand to individual weed plants by a crew of 4-6 people. There were no reports of resistance development."

              This suggests that *no* plant species (don't want to upset our AC reader) had this resistance (certainly not Cotton) *until* Monsanto (I thought they'd ditched that name) gave it to a Cotton species and it "magically" appeared in weed species.

              I note that correlation is not causality and it *could* be that the (apparently) greatly increased usage of Roundup by farmers *grossly* stimulated the development of Roundup resistant weeds. IOW The weeds developed their *own* resistance due to the changes in environment farmers could now make (IE carpet bombing fields with this stuff).

              This would have made their development the equivalent of the use by UK chicken farmers of antibiotics as "growth promoters" and one of the indirect causes of multiple resistant hospital infections.

              Sounds like a DNA sequencing project on the resistant weeds Vs the Cotton. This might show a different method of blocking its action (which in turn might suggest a new kind of herbicide).

              Too bad Monsanto did not include some kind of marker gene as well. I guess Cotton that glowed Green at night would have been a bit alarming.

          2. John Smith 19 Gold badge


            "John - did you even read my post? "

            I did, as I try to read all posts on a thread.

            Had you read mine more carefully you would have noticed the small symbols at the start and end of the first paragraph.

            The paragraph was a quote from Disco-Legend-Zeke.

            Perhaps you should address your comments to them.

            "Again I say FUD, "

            And I'm beginning to think I'm reading someone with a very vested interest in this subject. Herbicide developer by any chance? Round Up Distributor?

            "and my apologies for triggering your obviously huge ego. "

            Well I do post under a unique identifier rather than habitually AC, which is a bit vain. It also makes it quite easy to systematically vote down all my posts on a thread. That seems to happen when I upset someone with a really big ego who does not handle objections to their views very well.

            "Tell me more about this magical "[gene seepage in plants]"..."

            I used "Seepage" to convey the sense of slow but near *inevitable* transfer of genes from things we want (cash crops) to things we don't want, like weeds.

            However if you would prefer low rate horizontal inter species transmission I'd be talking about the same thing.

            The icon is just for you.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: John

              I work for a tech company that is frequently written about on this site - my habitual use of the AC is because I sometimes comment on said company, or our relationships with other frequently mentioned tech companies... not because I like to troll and, FWIW I only thumbed down your reply to me, which I felt was rude.

              Anyway, it's not the seepage term I was really concerned about - it was the underlying mechanism that I had never heard of... and which seemed, and to be honest still seems at least a little anecdotal and less than solidly proven. Everything I could find on the subject of weeds and Roundup Ready crops seems to indicate that weed resistance and RRCs has every appearance of a correlation and not a causal relationship... since the introduction of RRCs coincided with a severe uptick in herbicide use, and a change in usage pattern where farmers started using it (to quote one of the Google top three results for Roundup resistant weeds) "burn down" weeds at the beginning of the season.

              I could really care less about Monsanto and GM crops (wish I could throw a black helicopter icon up for you on that one, but no icons from the mobile) but when I see someone implying questionable causal relationships where the explanation - to me at least - seems to be much more easily and rationally explained via more simple, and well known mechanisms... Then I don't think it's really beyond the pale to challenge it.

              Also, thumbs up to Zeke for the research. I won't say I'm won over since the preponderance of evidence *seems* - again, maybe just to me - to point to correlation... especially when you take into account the number of weed species that seem to have developed resistance. But at least now I won't call cross-species gene seepage in plants complete FUD anymore, so maybe that's a win for you after all.

              1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


                "Anyway, it's not the seepage term I was really concerned about - it was the underlying mechanism that I had never heard of... and which seemed, and to be honest still seems at least a little anecdotal and less than solidly proven."

                In bacteria the process is well known. It turns out that at least some (all?) bacteria release rings of DNA called "plasmids" which allow any other bacteria which can take them up to acquire genetic characteristics outside mitosis. With *this* mechanism in play an antibiotic resistant strain does not have to "out breed" its weaker siblings. It just passes the trait around, potentially a *much* faster process. Despite this no researcher seems to have tried building a "booby trap" plasmid that kills all (or certain) strains that take it in.

                Looking up "plasmid" is a PITA as you get a lot of references to fusion and sunspot research.

                In the plant world growers have "hybridised" species (from wheat and corn to roses) for millenia by cross pollination, both within strains and *across* species. The RCC species are *meant* to be sterile but the fact Monsanto have arrangements in place to *sue* farmers for patent infringement if they use seeds collected from this years crops suggests, *very* infrequently that that does not happen.

                Given cross species hybridisation is *possible* and the number of weed species (or plant classified by farmers as weeds) is large the slow transfer of useful traits seems inevitable. If it's fast enough to account for herbicide resistance in this case is another matter.

                it helps to keep in mind that plants are not *perfect* copies in the way components on a production line can be (within the manufacturing tolerances). In the IT world the sort of people who deal with these sorts of problems would be the yield engineers on chip fabrication lines, where an error rate of 1 in a million is still x10000 too high (given the number of transistors in a modern processor). Nature does not fear a bit of slack in the process, it uses it.

                BTW A user name might be a good idea for your non company (or competitor) related posts.

        2. Disco-Legend-Zeke


          ...I must admit that the species creep is anecdotal, the crop is Roundup Ready (tm) cotton and the weed species is Bindweed, which looks like morning glory. I heard this from farmers and from the agricultural extension guy, neither has any reason to lie about it.

          The discussion led me to a little further research:

          "Resistance to herbicides, pathogens and insects may occur in wild plant species through mutation and introgression with other species. The movement of genes among plants provides weeds with the opportunity to express new properties and modify their invading potential. Examples of gene flow within and between weed populations, between weed species, and between crops and weeds are reviewed. Special attention is given to herbicide resistance genes and gene flow between genetically engineered crops, that display new highly adaptive genes, and weeds."

 (warning PDF)

          "Horizontal gene flow is the movement of genes between disparate, unrelated species, such as between plants and microbes. [...] there is good evidence that genes have moved between species in evolutionary time. One well-characterized case is the movement of genes from the soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens to plants"

          By whatever mechanism, the introduction of herbicide resistance to weed species IS taking place to the extent that, in the words of the aggie agent, "It Looks we won't have Roundup any more."

          The short term danger to farmers, however is economic, for example, pollin from GMO soybeans is carried to non GMO crops. Two things happen to the farmer:

          1. The crop may not be exported to countries where GMOs are prohibited.

          2. If the farmer saves and plants his own seeds, he is sued for patent infringement by Monsanto.

    3. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: There are *two* types of GM.

      "They also normally make the seed infertile, locking in the customer forever."

      While it may have that effect, that's not why they do it and it wasn't their choice. It's a sop to the leaf-munching Luddites and intended to prevent any possible nasty gene thingies leaking into the wild. Many countries have legislation enforcing sterility in GM crops.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    "Sweaties decode ultimate mystery of chips"

    Sure, but what about the ultimate mystery of fish?

  9. David Pollard

    Peru's Potato Park

    Thank heavens that the Peruvian potato park found the funding it needed.

    Myself I'm still undecided about GM, but it makes obvious sense to preserve existing varieties - just in case.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    What an insulting prick. I hope your next shit is a hedgehog.Fuckin fannybaws.

    1. Tony Green

      I'm only a sassanach...

      ...but that really did make me laugh.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      "Sweaty sock = jock"

      Many of us find this kind of racist insulting unacceptable. Just as offensive as using the N word when referring to black people.

      1. Bilgepipe


        Being Scottish is nothing to do with race.

        Please learn the meaning of the word "racism" before post[ur]ing again. Thank you.

        1. DF118



          1. A local geographic or global human population distinguished as a more or less distinct group by genetically transmitted physical characteristics.

          2. A group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality, or geographic distribution: e.g. the German race.


          Your handle, sir, is a fine example of nominative determinism.

  11. Harvardyard

    Oh The Envy of the English

    This article tries to trivialise an important piece of research and attempts to knock the Scots by means of an insulting headline knowing full well that it would bring out the English knuckle draggers to make anti-Scots comments. Why not the mingers from Imperial College since some of them were involved?

  12. Just Thinking


    Given that potato DNA is twice as complex as human DNA, is it moral to kill them and eat them?

    1. Wize

      Has a vegie work colegue who said...

      ...they didn't "eat anything with eyes"

      "Like potatoes?"

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Point of order sirrah!

    singular: toti

    plural: totiz

    the " i " is as in " if "

    Advanced learners may replace the second " t " with a glottal stop

  14. Anonymous Coward

    OMFG - genetics in my potatoes

    And here i thought they only used the normal copulatory methods.

  15. Homer 1 Silver badge

    "Sweaties" decode tatties...

    Says English w@nker John Oates, 1992 graduate of the University of Glasgow.

    Well I suppose that's another GM-infected product I'll have to grow myself.

  16. DF118

    The Scottish angle

    El Reg does have a habit of trivialising any news from outside the home counties by their frequent use of mild ethnic slurs. France, Germany, Scotland and Wales in particular usually have some epithet attached to them; at least in the headline if not the story itself. The north and west of England are not entirely safe from the occasional ribbing either.

    It's almost as if there's a faint vein of Little England running through a handful of El Reg's writers. Either that or their ability to resist obvious and unfunny click/comment-baiting headlines (as opposed to the properly creative and actually funny kind for which they are famed) is hitting a new low.

    1. Harvardyard

      The Scottish Angle

      Ooooh! You mean they are Home counties homos?


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