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NZ scientists help crack potato genetic code

23 Sep, 2008

Source: Reuters, September 2008

New Zealand scientists are part of an international team working to sequence the potato genome.

The Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium includes scientists from 13 countries each decoding different pieces of the genome. The potato has 12 chromosomes and 840 million DNA base pairs, compared to humans who have 3 million DNA base pairs.

The consortium aims to complete its work by 2010 and then make its findings public, to enable plant breeders to create improved seed varieties that can resist droughts and diseases.

“We’ll be able to design seeds more effectively and more efficiently after we know precisely which genes do what,” Peruvian scientist Professor Gisella Orjeda says.

The potato is the world’s third most important food crop after wheat and rice.

The United Nations declared 2008 to be the International Year of the Potato.

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