Tomato genome to be decoded

London: Scientists have begun a multi-million-pound attempt to untangle the genetic secrets of the tomato. Teams from Britain and several other countries will spend three years unravelling the DNA of Solanum lycopersicon esculentum — the tomato's revised taxonomic label. The plant was domesticated 8,000 years ago in the Peruvian Andes but spread to the tables of the world after the Spanish conquest 500 years ago. Researchers find the tomato of interest because it is related closely to the potato, the aubergine and, more distantly, to the petunia, peppers and coffee. So the DNA sequence of just one species will throw light on some of the world's most valuable crops. Britain's �700,000 effort is shared by scientists from Imperial College London, the University of Warwick, and the Scottish Crop Research Institute. Graham Seymour of Warwick said, ``For the first time, we will be able to rapidly identify genes responsible for important crop traits and, by accessing the immense natural variation in the gene pool, produce new and improved varieties through conventional breeding programmes.''

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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