Ever wondered why some strawberries are super sweet, while others not so much or why some chocolates taste creamier than others? It's all to do with the same thing that makes each human being different - the genes. Now, scientists believe they have unlocked the code that will take them one step closer to even more delicious versions of not only these two treats, but others as well.
The two separate studies conducted by a team from 38 organizations from all over the world, was led by scientists from France's CIRAD, an organization that tackles agricultural issues. Their mission is to not only create tastier produce, but also, one that is healthier and more resilient to disease.
For the chocolate study, the scientists selected Criollo - A cacao tree that was first cultivated by humans during the Mayan era, about 3,000 years ago. Amongst the 28,798 genes identified, were two that help protect the plant against disease. Also identified, were the genes that influence the amount of natural antioxidants, aroma, color and flavor.
In the case of strawberries, the scientists picked the wild Woodland Strawberry, which they uncovered has an astonishing 35,000 genes or about one and half times the number found in humans. Similar to the cacao tree, they were able to segregate the ones responsible for diseases, aroma, color and flavor.
The scientists are now hoping to use this information to cultivate plants that can resist diseases, which in turn will lead to better yields and more sustainable farming, especially in the case of the highly susceptible cacao tree.
Also, since the strawberry is part of the Rosaceae family of plants, which includes apples, peaches, pears, raspberries and roses, they are hoping to use similar techniques to boost the production of other fruits as well.
Genes are chemicals that determine the traits or characteristics that all living things inherit from their parents. In the case of humans they determine things like how a person looks, how tall he/she is, whether he/she has curly or straight hair etc. etc. Each of the between 20,000-25,000 genes, housed inside the nucleus of every human cell, carry their own blueprint or pre-determined function. It is the malfunction of these protein molecules that leads to all kinds of diseases in living creatures, which is the reason scientists study them so closely.
Sources: topnews.us, cbc.ca,kidshealth.org