Tastier tomataoes comeback thanks to genetics + Our gen-engineered future is close

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Tastier Tomatoes May Be Making a Comeback Thanks to Genetics
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-new...180972175/

EXCERPT: . . . Roni Dengler reports for Discover, scientists have identified a flavor-making gene variant that is absent from most cultivated tomatoes, which in turn may help growers develop more tasty varieties in the future.

[...] It was breeding that led to the disappearance of these genes, as growers focused their efforts on selecting for traits like increased shelf-life, bigger yields and larger sizes, which are important to modern methods of production. But along the way, other important traits were lost; the new study found that genes involved in defense responses to various pathogens were the ones most commonly missing from domesticated tomatoes.

The researchers also identified a rare allele, or variant, of a gene called TomLoxC, which is likely to be of particular interest to breeders who hope to bolster the taste of their crops. “The gene influences fruit flavor by catalyzing the biosynthesis of a number of lipid-involved volatiles—compounds that evaporate easily and contribute to aroma,” says study co-author James Giovannoni, a molecular biologist at Cornell and USDA scientist. Through their investigation, the researchers also discovered that TomLoxC facilitates the production of a group of organic compounds called apocarotenoids, which have a number of fruity and floral odors that influence tomato taste.

Some 90 percent of wild tomatoes had this rare version of TomLoxC—but only two percent of older domesticated tomatoes did. The allele seems to be making a comeback, however; the researchers found it in seven percent of modern tomato varieties. “[C]learly the breeders have started selecting for it, probably as they have focused more on flavor in the recent decades,” Giovannoni says. (MORE - details)



Our Genetically Engineered Future Is Closer Than You Think
https://leapsmag.com/our-genetically-eng...you-think/

EXCERPT: The news last November that a rogue Chinese scientist had genetically altered the embryos of a pair of Chinese twins shocked the world. But although this use of advanced technology to change the human gene pool was premature, it was a harbinger of how genetic science will alter our healthcare, the way we make babies, the nature of the babies we make, and, ultimately, our sense of who and what we are as a species.But while the genetics revolution has already begun, we aren’t prepared to handle these Promethean technologies responsibly.

By identifying the structure of DNA in the 1950s, Watson, Crick, Wilkins, and Franklin showed that the book of life was written in the DNA double helix. When the human genome project was completed in 2003, we saw how this book of human life could be transcribed. Painstaking research paired with advanced computational algorithms then showed what increasing numbers of genes do and how the genetic book of life can be read. Now, with the advent of precision gene editing tools like CRISPR, we are seeing that the book of life — and all biology — can be re-written. Biology is being recognized as another form of readable, writable, and hackable information technology with we humans as the coders.

[...] But while the advance of genetic technologies is inevitable, how it plays out is anything but. If we don’t want the genetic revolution to undermine our species or lead to grave conflicts between genetic haves and have nots or between societies opting in and those opting out, now is the time when we need to make smart decisions based on our individual and collective best values. Although the technology driving the genetic revolution is new, the value systems we will need to optimize the benefits and minimize the harms of this massive transformation are ones we have been developing for thousands of years.

And while some very smart and well-intentioned scientists have been meeting to explore what comes next, it won’t be enough for a few of even our wisest prophets to make decisions about the future of our species that will impact everyone. We’ll also need smart regulations on both the national and international levels. Every country will need to have its own regulatory guidelines for human genetic engineering based on both international best practices and the country’s unique traditions and values. Because we are all one species, however, we will also ultimately need to develop guidelines that can apply to all of us. (MORE - details)
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