Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Science

Scientists Sequence Coffee Genome, Ponder Genetic Modification 167

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-you-modify-it-so-it-doesn't-taste-like-coffee dept.
nbauman sends word that researchers have completed a project to sequence the genome of Coffea canephora, a species of plant responsible for roughly 30% of the world's coffee production. In the course of their genetic mapping, the researchers "pinpointed genetic attributes that could help in the development of new coffee varieties better able to endure drought, disease and pests, with the added benefit of enhancing flavor and caffeine levels." They also discovered a broad range of genes that contribute to the production of flavor-related compounds and caffeine. Plant genomist Victor Albert said, "For any agricultural plant, having a genome is a prerequisite for any sort of high technology breeding or molecular modification. Without a genome, we couldn't do any real advanced research on coffee that would allow us to improve it — not in this day and age."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Scientists Sequence Coffee Genome, Ponder Genetic Modification

Comments Filter:
  • by rossdee (243626) on Friday September 05, 2014 @07:53AM (#47833665)

    I don't drink coffee

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 05, 2014 @07:57AM (#47833687)

    Add THC to the coffee bean, sell it at Starbucks. You'll make billions.

  • Le sigh.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Friday September 05, 2014 @08:04AM (#47833725)
    I am not some anti-GMO freak, although I think it is hubris to assume that we can tinker with genomes without unintended consequences. This quote:

    Without a genome, we couldn't do any real advanced research on coffee that would allow us to improve it — not in this day and age.

    Is pure shite. It is called selective breeding, and it has been done for centuries. While that may not be advanced enough for you tastes, it works, and it improves plant varietals. You do not have to splice DNA to make improvements.

    One day we may just go to far and drop like honeybees in a Monsanto cornfield.

    • We've been tinkering with the genetic makeup of our crops for thousands of years, you called it selective breeding. It basically means growing lots of crops and waiting for the DNA to be mutated in ways that appear on the face of it to be really cool and aggressively breeding that strain. We don't know where the mutation happened, what pleitropic effects it might have, and whether it will cause us all to 'drop like honeybees'. Then we repeat the genetic crapshoot over and over again. The difference with

    • Re:Le sigh.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday September 05, 2014 @09:09AM (#47834159)

      I am not some anti-GMO freak, although I think it is hubris to assume that we can tinker with genomes without unintended consequences. This quote:

      Without a genome, we couldn't do any real advanced research on coffee that would allow us to improve it — not in this day and age.

      Is pure shite. It is called selective breeding, and it has been done for centuries. While that may not be advanced enough for you tastes, it works, and it improves plant varietals. You do not have to splice DNA to make improvements.

      One day we may just go to far and drop like honeybees in a Monsanto cornfield.

      Don't you think selective breeding would be a tad easier if you knew what you were breeding for? Not all GMO is done by chemically modifying the genome. You can identify your target gene, select seeds that contain the desired genes, pollinate them with plants that contain only those genes.

      I know there's a lot of movies that demonize this process, but in reality what they are doing is not any different than what happens in nature. It's just that instead of getting random mutations over and over until we get what we want, we just go strait to the goal. If anything it's probably safer. When doing it with selective breeding we get tens of thousands of undesired variants before we get the plant we want. How many of those could have been the plague bringer? When we chemically modify the gene, we're only rolling the dice a single time.

      And for the record, no man made GM food has ever harmed a bee. Quite to the contrary, many GM plants were designed to need less pesticides and fertilizers, which definitely do harm bees. The one downside of GM plants in regards to bees is that they allow farmers to plant large monocultures with less of a chance of disease killing those plants. Bees are healthier in more diverse environments, so it would be better if they diversified their crops rather than just plant what has the highest price this year.

      • by eulernet (1132389)

        And for the record, no man made GM food has ever harmed a bee.

        Citation needed.

        Searching for "gmo harming bees" gives:
        http://www.globalresearch.ca/d... [globalresearch.ca]
        It is said that Terminator seeds provokes something similar to cancer to bees.

        • And for the record, no man made GM food has ever harmed a bee.

          Citation needed.

          Searching for "gmo harming bees" gives:
          http://www.globalresearch.ca/d... [globalresearch.ca]
          It is said that Terminator seeds provokes something similar to cancer to bees.

          Um yea...

          Despite presenting itself as a source of scholarly analysis, Globalresearch mostly consists of polemics many of which accept (and use) conspiracy theories, pseudoscience and propaganda. The prevalent conspiracist strand relates to global power-elites (primarily governments and corporations) and their New World Order. Specific featured conspiracy theories include those addressing 9/11,vaccines,genetic modification, Zionism, HAARP, global warming. Bosnian genocide denialism and David Kelly.

          http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/G... [rationalwiki.org]

          Also, juts go to that sites front page... The nature of the site because quite evident just reading the headlines: http://www.globalresearch.ca/ [globalresearch.ca]

          You might as well be quoting the Time Cube guy.
          Check your sources next time.

        • by poity (465672)
          globalresearch.ca is run by a Russian conspiracy theorist
        • There's no GURT technology currently on the market. And no, there's no reputable science saying that somehow transgenic technology is unsafe for bees or anything else. There's not even a proposed mechanism on how this could possibly be.
    • Well, if you'd quoted a bit more of the text, it might seem a bit more reasonable (emphasis mine):

      "For any agricultural plant, having a genome is a prerequisite for any sort of high technology breeding or molecular modification. Without a genome, we couldn't do any real advanced research on coffee that would allow us to improve it — not in this day and age."

      So, yes, you can do selective breeding without having the genome sequenced, and you can try to determine over the course of generations which pla

    • by poity (465672)

      Oog, you dumb-dumb, go hunt and stop breeding those cows, you will create dragon-cow one day and kill our village

      Years later, Oog's village was conquered by the agricultural civilization nearby. Oog became a slave charged with breeding heartier cattle, and his wife bore the children of others.

      • Sounds like Caveman Science Fiction. [dresdencodak.com] It's a good point though, all these people saying they don't want people messing with their food, when we already have. Corn, wheat, seedless bananas, strawberries, cauliflower, all of those are man made, and there are several different methods used for the genetic improvement . When you point this out, usually to people totally ignorant of the history and science of crop improvement, instead of admitting they were completely and utterly clueless and had their foot in

    • by AaronLS (1804210)

      And that's where the anti-GMO nuts fall on their faces. We've eaten hybrid, selectively bred, and grafted plants for decades, and the anti-GMO's eat plenty of this stuff, and there are potential side affects to all of these processes. Just look at pure bred dogs and cats, and all the medical problems many of them have that are an attribute of their breed.

    • I think it is hubris to assume that we can tinker with genomes without unintended consequences.

      Breeding macadamia nuts with easier to crack shells resulted in more insect damage. Breeding potatoes with more pest resistance made toxic potatoes. Breeding corn that was easier to produce hybrid seed from made disease susceptible corn. All that and more was conventional breeding. You know what I think is hubris? All the armchair agriculturists acting as if the people working on these things are wild eyed mad scientists who never stop to consider any secondary affects that may more most likely may not

  • by nimbius (983462) on Friday September 05, 2014 @08:05AM (#47833727) Homepage
    knowing the threat [livescience.com] to our vital supply of hot black ichor was in peril, scientists of all fields have clearly exhibited a remarkable drive to solve this problem. Cancer, supercomputing, and most modern breakthrough technologies would have ground to a halt without some means of ensuring a steady supply of our dark glory bean. In honor of these brave scientists, I propose a toast of the finest coffee this mornings breakroom has to offer.
  • by msauve (701917)
    "Without a genome, we couldn't do any real advanced research on coffee that would allow us to improve it -- not in this day and age."

    Because artificial selection of plants based on their expression of desirable characteristics has somehow become impossible?
    • by Exitar (809068)

      I think that with "in this day and age" they mean "we cannot wait the long times needed by artificial selection".
      That is, you can have a new coffe that "endure drought, disease and pests, with the added benefit of enhancing flavor and caffeine levels" with natural selection maybe in 100 years, or with genetic tampering in 10.

  • by invictusvoyd (3546069) on Friday September 05, 2014 @08:12AM (#47833765)
    A potent skunk variety of coffee has been recently banned !! . Reports suggest the so called "lunar launcher" could be 20-40% more potent than regular coffee. Some states are pushing for a legislation to allow it for medical use.
    _________________
    what? it's morning already!!! zzz
  • by LookIntoTheFuture (3480731) on Friday September 05, 2014 @08:13AM (#47833779)
    Don't fuck with my coffee!!!
    • Don't fuck with my coffee!!!

      What, you don't like creamer?

      • Don't fuck with my coffee!!!

        What, you don't like creamer?

        I do. Nothing beats hot, fresh, ropey jets of jism in my morning coffee. Its DNA changes all the time. My coffees doesn't. That's how it should stay.

    • Yeah, no need to breed Typica or Yellow Caturra or all the varieties already developed from the wild, un-fucked with coffee. Sarcasm aside, it's already been fucked with, and if you like what you have now then you already agree that it has been for the best.

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Friday September 05, 2014 @08:22AM (#47833833)
    I was not familiar with the name coffea canephora so I looked it up. This is what I have heard in the past called coffea robusta. Maybe the name got changed to disguise what it is. A lot of people know what robusta coffee is. For those who don't know, robusta is considered an inferior species of coffee. Ever heard of coffees that say that they are 100% arabica? This is because just about everybody considers arabica to be superior to robusta. Robusta is used in blends because it is is very bitter. Robusta is more disease resistant and has higher crop yields than arabica, but I've never heard of it being used in concentrations of more than maybe 1o to 15% in blends. Usually the amount used is less than 10%. This is great, I guess, and I suppose if there were 100% robusta blends some crazy people would love it. Currently in the USA there's a big interest in making craft beers as bitter as possible. Those kind of people, who are in the minority, would probably love large robusta blends. But until they sequence and maybe talk about doing things to protect arabica from disease, this is mildly interesting and no more.
    • by omems (1869410)
      Good catch.
      They go on to, "present a draft genome of the diploid Coffea canephora, one of the two founder species of the tetraploid crop Coffea arabica." Which is to say, in the course of evolving, the genome was duplicated. Then, with a redundant set of genes, there was greater opportunity for mutations to either inactivate one copy, or have novel functions arise--like new flavonoids and alkaloids. Compared with most animal species, plants as a whole are particularly amenable to genome duplications, for
      • by brianerst (549609)

        So, then theoretically they could also sequence the arabica bean and figure out which alleles cause the "better flavor" of arabica and breed and/or modify versions of robusta that contain those flavor-positive alleles. Arabica flavor in a more robust(a) plant. (Robusta plants are more disease resistant - perhaps the tetraploid nature of arabica make them more vulnerable).

        I've got no dog in this hunt - I hate coffee. But figuring out how to get better flavored coffee from the higher producing, more robust pl

  • by gatkinso (15975) on Friday September 05, 2014 @08:22AM (#47833837)

    Coffee is already perfect. Mess with it at your peril.

    • Coffee is already perfect. Mess with it at your peril.

      I like coffee, but it tastes very bitter to me, so I end up adding a lot of sugar. It's a challenge for me to keep a healthy weight, so a version without the bitterness would be a huge win for me.

      • Re:Motherfuckers (Score:4, Interesting)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) on Friday September 05, 2014 @08:59AM (#47834099) Homepage Journal

        If you think coffee is bitter, try making it in a cold press. You can still warm it up if you like the idea of hot coffee, but you won't get a bit of bitterness. Plus it brings out all the caffeine so you'll feel like you've just taken a cocaine suppository, which are also kind of bitter, by the way, which is why you should not eat them.

        • Plus it brings out all the caffeine so you'll feel like you've just taken a cocaine suppository, which are also kind of bitter, by the way, which is why you should not eat them.

          Erm, I do not think suppository means what you think it means... and I have never heard of cocaine being used in that way. :)

      • Re:Motherfuckers (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mellon (7048) on Friday September 05, 2014 @09:18AM (#47834235) Homepage

        I recommend that you try cold brew with a medium roast of good-quality arabica beans. Not *$$: go to your local co-op and get some good shade-grown beans. I've had good success doing a 12-hour cold brew: you take about a cup and a half of course ground coffee and add it to two quarts of water (I use a two-quart mason jar) and put it in the fridge overnight. After it's sat twelve hours, filter it through paper into another container. This is kind of an annoying process, and there are devices that you can get to simplify it, but I would start off just using a regular filter so that you can try it.

        The coffee this produces is much mellower than the equivalent coffee brewed hot. If you want it hot, it's okay to heat it: the reason you don't re-heat hot coffee is that the transition from hot to cold causes chemical changes that wreck the flavor, but the transition from cold to hot doesn't have this effect.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      Maybe if they can splice the coffee gene with the oak-aged bourbon whiskey gene. I'm thinking I'd give that a try.

    • Define perfect. You do realize that if someone adds in, say, a defensin or chintinase gene for fungal resistance, it will not impact the flavor, but might cut down on fungicide use.

  • Which pairs taste good?
            A: adenosine
            C: cytosine
            G: guanine
            T: thymine

    Tastes better to who?

  • For we many coffee snobs, changes to robusta beans won't affect us much, except for a few espresso blends. Until they genetically modify robusta to the equal of arabica, that is.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I have a feeling that they will try. There is something troubling about all the world's good coffee being a genetic monoculture, especially given that Arabica is a rather sensitive plant. Robusta gets its name not for the kind of coffee it produces, but because it's just hardier and less fussy to grow. If I could help direct the research, I would say that they figure out what is responsible for the pleasing flavor of Arabica, and get Robusta to taste like that.
  • by sideslash (1865434) on Friday September 05, 2014 @08:37AM (#47833931)
    Let's do it for science.
  • Isolate out the caffiene genes, and start adding it to other plants. There are times I'm eating breakfast, and I'm thinking "Why am I only getting caffiene from the coffee? Buzz up them hashbrowns! Perk up that toast! If we can introduce it into animals, think about caffinated eggs, or butter, or cheese. We can finally jitter up the world.
    • I read a story once about some idiot buying a bag of caffeine online and passing it around in a club. I believe he took too much and overdosed, dying in a way you wouldn't want to imagine. Other than the obvious, the lesson here is that apparently you can put caffeine on just about anything you like.
    • by jpvlsmv (583001)

      Isolate out the caffiene genes, and start adding it to other plants. There are times I'm eating breakfast, and I'm thinking "Why am I only getting caffiene from the coffee? Buzz up them hashbrowns! Perk up that toast! If we can introduce it into animals, think about caffinated eggs, or butter, or cheese. We can finally jitter up the world.

      To heck with that, splice that gene into a retrovirus, and let me caffeinate every cell in my body!

  • I'm still bummed out that the "Grapple" isn't some genetic abomination created by a DNA scientist in a lab somewhere. The reality is far more boring. If these scientists wanted to do something truly horrific, they could engineer up a strain of coffee with no caffeine. That's like one step off of building a "Death Ray" and holding the world for hostage with it.
  • I don't want anybody holding a patent on the coffee plant.

    Until I see a government that's prepared to hold corporations accountable for misconduct, monopolistic and anti-competitive practices and general mopery, no, you don't get to have intellectual property protection on that genome you modified in the lab.

    This is why we can't have nice things.

  • This is more evidence of why we need a ban on GMOs. We don't need bubble gum flavored coffee or whatever crap they come up with, I like how my coffee tastes just fine. I like the bitterness that coffee can have its flavor profile as it is, the flavor of coffee is what makes coffee what it is. We don't need people telling us to drink less caffiene, if someone doesnt like the caffiene, drink decaf, or mix decaf and regular coffee to get the caffiene level that you want. No need for screwing up the coffee gen

    • There's no logic behind your argument. Selective breeding is by definition not 'natural. Also, you might want to look up 'horizontal gene transfer.' Nature transplants genes too, and in a less controlled way. The technology is not inherently flawed, but there are issues with out usage, including biodiversity.

      If you want to ban patents on GMO, I am 100% with you. That will be a blow to Monsanto but not get in the way of things like golden rice.
      • There is a lot of logic behind my arguments. The fact is, selective breeding is natural as far as the actual coding process being controlled by natural systems. My other points are very valid. The kinds of manipulations with GMO would never happen with selective breeding or other natural gene transfers. GMOs have significantly higher risks. Small changes in the genes can have enormous effects, genes have many functions which are not known and with effects that can cascade throughout the organism. This makes

        • The kinds of manipulations with GMO would never happen with selective breeding or other natural gene transfers.

          There are insects with fungal and bacterial genes, as well as more mundane genes transfers that cross species. A lot of GMO genes are not even cross-species.

          Small changes in the genes can have enormous effects, genes have many functions which are not known and with effects that can cascade throughout the organism. This makes GMOs unpredictable

          It also makes selective breeding unpredictable. It

    • by omems (1869410)
      Assuming you're talking about the Vendômois study, that paper was retracted by the journal. [wikipedia.org]

      The line of rats used are prone to tumors even with normal food. Combine that with a small sample size and one cannot say whether it was the food or their normal bad genes that caused the tumors.

      I'm not saying it's impossible, but to my knowledge there are no well-designed studies that actually demonstrate a causal link between eating GMO foods and disease.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Genetic modification is probably the only way to make decaffeinated coffee that's still tasty. Breeding for low caffeine content produces sickly, unproductive strains, and decaffeination ruins the taste. There's a huge market for decaffeinated coffee that tastes less bad:

    http://www.economist.com/node/1858921

    It's a problem. Snobby espresso shops usually refuse to even make decaf. Also decaffeinated coffee isn't really caffeine-free, so this could be improved. It's about 0.1x as much caffeine as

  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Friday September 05, 2014 @09:25AM (#47834291)

    The coffee world is already deep in bed with the organic, fare-trade, square-deal, jump-through-hoops, still-tastes-the-same movement(s). GMO coffee will make these folks lose their excrement in old testament fashion. Should be amusing to watch.

    • That happened in Hawai'i. The University of Hawai'i was considering developing a GE variety, but the Kona coffee growers opposed it. I imagine not because they actually believe it was actually a bad thing, but because they target the high end market, which has a large cross-over with the hippie anti-science market that would flip out if they though their coffee was GMO. It doesn't even have to be since these types of people consider Facebook rumors to be fact checking, so the mere rumor would be enough t

  • Engineer that in and you'll have a hit [wikipedia.org].

    • by istartedi (132515)

      If you're going to go that far, just put coffee bean genes in the civet so that the actual poop can be used to make a tasty brew. For that matter, why bother with a civet? Do that to dogs. No more trouble getting people to bag their dog crap.

  • Right when we're on the verge of inventing cryosleep for interstellar space travel, come NASA's new wave of coffeemaker makers. No sleep for the wicked, and none for the shuttle pilot either.

  • You could just leave it the fuck alone.

Every nonzero finite dimensional inner product space has an orthonormal basis. It makes sense, when you don't think about it.

Working...