Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Scientists Sequence Coffee Genome, Ponder Genetic Modification

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the can-you-modify-it-so-it-doesn't-taste-like-coffee dept.

Biotech 166

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."

cancel ×

166 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

But (2)

rossdee (243626) | about two weeks ago | (#47833665)

I don't drink coffee

No more GMOs! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47833673)

No!

Re:No more GMOs! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834189)

I disagree. Modify everything!

Make all plants and animals cube shaped too. It makes them stack neater.

Re:No more GMOs! (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about two weeks ago | (#47834389)

No, make them all sphere shaped so the physics is easier!

Re:No more GMOs! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834485)

spherical sheep vs cubical cow. FIGHT!

Re:No more GMOs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834919)

cubical cow

I'm a monkey, not a cow, you insensitive clod!

More caffeine? Better flavor? Higher crop yields? (1)

ashshy (40594) | about two weeks ago | (#47833679)

Bring it on!

Re:More caffeine? Better flavor? Higher crop yield (5, Funny)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about two weeks ago | (#47833769)

Coming soon to a Monsantobucks near you!

Please Add THC (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47833687)

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

Re:Please Add THC (4, Funny)

rmdingler (1955220) | about two weeks ago | (#47833731)

With regards to THC, I believe the acronym GMO mostly still means grow my own.

Le sigh.... (5, Interesting)

wbr1 (2538558) | about two weeks ago | (#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.

Re:Le sigh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47833773)

You do not have to splice DNA to make improvements.

And that's, generally, not how most genetic modification is done. At least if you're saying what I think you're saying. They don't need to be ripping genetic information from other plants or anything like that. They just were able to locate which genes are responsible for what, and can now proceed with attempting to coax it into what they want. Believe it or not, this actually usually is done through selective breeding in a lab; not some freaky science as some would have you believe.

Re:Le sigh.... (1, Interesting)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about two weeks ago | (#47833823)

...They just were able to locate which genes are responsible for what, and can now proceed with attempting to coax it into what they want. ...

And this is the only kind of "GMO" I'm willing to accept. Utilizing what's there, and doing the equivalent of selective breeding to express genes is all we really should be doing with the information at hand. Injecting new DNA, or arbitrarily altering it is a recipe for disaster IMNSHO. Having the genome handy and knowing what you want to express makes selective breeding a much faster process, without going into Monsanto Frankenland.

Re:Le sigh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47833871)

Nature has been injecting foreign DNA into other organisms since before you (or humanity) was born. When will your disaster come?

Cow is ~ 40% snake transposon. I don't think they mated by traditional means.

Re:Le sigh.... (2)

mellon (7048) | about two weeks ago | (#47834061)

And yet, ironically, does not taste like chicken!

Re:Le sigh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834077)

This.

The human genome itself has VIRAL segments in the DNA all over the place.
Some of them are even suspect for increasing the chances of developing cancers if they get activated on the off mutation or misread.
Hell, it it wasn't for this, most, if not all advanced life would not even be here. Pretty much all breeding is based on foreign DNAs combining.

Selective breeding itself has resulted in bad things happening too. It isn't perfect.
Then it was used for some downright funny things, like breeding animals that faint on sudden shock, a corruption of the freeze response.

Re:Le sigh.... (1)

gunnnnslinger (793553) | about two weeks ago | (#47834671)

So all things being equal, you're asking me who I trust with my best interests more, Nature or Monsanto?

Re:Le sigh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834605)

Nature has been injecting foreign DNA into other organisms since before you (or humanity) was born. When will your disaster come?

Your dad injected some foreign DNA into your mom, and just look what happened...ZOINKS!

Re:Le sigh.... (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about two weeks ago | (#47834665)

It's funny, because I can inject a genetic modification using a cassette on one of a small number of bacteria, and get the correct results; then I can duplicate them perfectly by TEM analysis of pollen and seed and fertilization; and then call it "organic" and "non-GMO" even though the output is equivalent.

Re:Le sigh.... (2)

mod prime (3597787) | about two weeks ago | (#47834007)

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 GMO is that we're not doing it completely blind.

Re:Le sigh.... (1)

soccerisgod (585710) | about two weeks ago | (#47834201)

It's still completely blind, as far as possible effects are concerned. It's just orders of magnitude faster. Not sure that's a good thing.

Re:Le sigh.... (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about two weeks ago | (#47834421)

We don't have perfect visibility, but it's not completely blind either.

Re:Le sigh.... (3, Interesting)

jabuzz (182671) | about two weeks ago | (#47834729)

Clearly you have never heard of proteomics then. The idea that GMO is completely blind as to the possible effects is uneducated nonsense. Given that traditional selective breading requires no proteomic testing for unintended side effects, any sane rational person looking at the facts would conclude that GMO is in fact safer.

Re:Le sigh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834543)

Claiming that genetic engineering is merely an extension of selective breeding is like claiming that the space age is merely an extension of greek mythology. We've been looking up at those same damn stars for thousands of years, after all.

So let's call a spade a spade here, and stop trying to pad our arguments with fallacies. Selective breeding does NOT change the evolutionary process (the algorithm); it only changes the input and output. Genetic engineering, on the other hand, DOES change the algorithm, and that's a world of difference. Put another way, selective breeding is something that could have very well occurred in nature anyway, and we're just encouraging it. Genetic engineering is something that does NOT occur in nature, and that is precisely why it requires modern science.

Re:Le sigh.... (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about two weeks ago | (#47834677)

The space age is merely an extension of ballistic missile rocketry.

Re:Le sigh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834075)

"I am not some anti-GMO freak..."

But you sure do talk like one.

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

Charliemopps (1157495) | about two weeks ago | (#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.

Re:Le sigh.... (1)

eulernet (1132389) | about two weeks ago | (#47834383)

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.

Re:Le sigh.... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about two weeks ago | (#47834507)

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.

Agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834225)

Nature has already perfected coffee, just as nature has already perfected ALL of the foods we eat. No amount of genetic engineering can make food taste better than hundreds of thousands of years of co-evolution (between plant and animal). The notion is absurd. And no, selective breeding is NOT the same thing as genetic engineering.

Now perhaps genetic engineering can improve resistance to pests, but let me point out that most genetic engineering DOES NOT achieve pest-resistance by making the plant more resistant to the actual pest, but merely by making it more resistant to pesticide, so that they can smother it, thereby creating more profit for the chemical company.

Science isn't always on your side just because it's science.

Re:Agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834371)

"Nature has already perfected coffee, just as nature has already perfected ALL of the foods we eat. No amount of genetic engineering can make food taste better than hundreds of thousands of years of co-evolution (between plant and animal). The notion is absurd."

Taste isn't the only reason you'd want to genetically modify an oganism. Increasing nutritional value, increasing yield, reducing water usage; the list of possibilities, including the one you mentioned, is endless.

"Now perhaps genetic engineering can improve resistance to pests, but let me point out that most genetic engineering DOES NOT achieve pest-resistance by making the plant more resistant to the actual pest, but merely by making it more resistant to pesticide, so that they can smother it, thereby creating more profit for the chemical company."

That's only one way to do it. Making plants actually more resistant to pests can and has been done, by selective breeding as well as by genetic manipulation.

"Science isn't always on your side just because it's science."

Science is always on your side precisely because it's science.

Re:Agreed (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about two weeks ago | (#47834743)

Science is always on your side precisely because it's science.

Science doesn't take sides. It is not evil nor good.

Re:Agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834845)

"Nature has already perfected coffee, just as nature has already perfected ALL of the foods we eat. No amount of genetic engineering can make food taste better than hundreds of thousands of years of co-evolution (between plant and animal). The notion is absurd."

I don't know about you, but for my taste adding fx refined sugar to food can very often make it taste significantly better than "co-evolution" did.

Re:Agreed (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about two weeks ago | (#47834503)

I don't know about you, but I don't consider my food to be perfect, as there are definitely differences I notice.. In fact, a big portion of modern economic practice were built on our desire to use spices to cover the bad taste of the food we had.

Re:Agreed (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about two weeks ago | (#47834689)

Coffee is terrible. It has caffeine. If it had a high load of sulbutiamine instead, it would be a non-addictive anti-fatigue drink with no withdraw or tolerance properties.

Re:Agreed (1)

west (39918) | about two weeks ago | (#47834723)

Nature has already perfected coffee, just as nature has already perfected ALL of the foods we eat. No amount of genetic engineering can make food taste better than hundreds of thousands of years of co-evolution (between plant and animal). The notion is absurd. And no, selective breeding is NOT the same thing as genetic engineering.

Um, evolution in most plants is "trying to make them taste BAD", otherwise, they... get eaten.

Nature's evolutionary "perfection", as a human might define it, would be a plant that replaces every living thing on the planet.

Of course, in reality evolution has no "goal". It is not "trying" anything. Producing something that is more fit is no more a "goal" of evolution than having a boulder roll downhill is a "goal" of gravity. Evolution is the simple outcome of the mathematics of self-replicating systems.

Re:Agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834851)

evolution in most plants is "trying to make them taste BAD", otherwise, they... get eaten

That would be the naive, half-assed view of evolution. What actually happens is that plants and animals co-evolve together, not in spite of each other. The plants that get eaten by (certain) animals have evolved precisely to get eaten by (certain) animals, and ALSO to keep coming back, year after year, to get eaten by those same animals. The numbers HAVE to balance out, otherwise either the plant or animal would go extinct. Logically, if neither goes extinct, then there must be a balance, and that balance is precisely what tens or hundreds of thousands of years of evolution has achieved. At the extreme, there are certain species of birds and insects which have evolved to eat ONLY certain species of plants, and those species of plants can ONLY be propagated by their respective matching animal. The same process occurs with animals that eat multiple species of plant, and plants that are eaten by multiple species of animal. The balance is more complex, but logically, there MUST BE a balance.

Precautionary Principle (1)

m.shenhav (948505) | about two weeks ago | (#47834525)

I agree whole heartedly. Here is a recent, rigorous and relevant paper advocating a non-naive precautionary principle (much like you are): http://www.fooledbyrandomness.... [fooledbyrandomness.com]

Re:Le sigh.... (1)

Translation Error (1176675) | about two weeks ago | (#47834555)

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 plants have or may produce the desired traits, but if you do have the genome, you can greatly speed up the process by genetically checking the qualities of the plants and basing your choices on that.

Truly priority one. (4, Funny)

nimbius (983462) | about two weeks ago | (#47833727)

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.

Re:Truly priority one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47833767)

Solving the coffee problem first gives us all the more energy to spend on solving the others.

Re:Truly priority one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47833821)

Knowing that the supply of self-righteous comments on Slashdot was low, nimbius heroically called out the scientists for working on something that interested them and/or could ensure the survival of their progeny as they got paid do to more research.

Yeah, because that's a good idea. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47833733)

"This has genomes? LET'S MODIFY THEM!"

Did any geneticist stop to think maybe, just maybe, we don't need to genetically modify everything? I get it--it'll herp all the pestilence and derp all the starvation or whatever--but organizations like Monsanto have been modifying genetics for decades (often with quite the vicious approach to people whom legitimately question them) and we're likely the hungriest among rich nations. Sure seems like all that genetic modification cured every bit of starvation!

Re:Yeah, because that's a good idea. (1)

kruach aum (1934852) | about two weeks ago | (#47833809)

The first three words of your post are so telling that anything after that can be safely disregarded as uninformed garbage. The funny part is that you clearly didn't realize this, but then, it's hard to know what you don't know and take it into account.

Re:Yeah, because that's a good idea. (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about two weeks ago | (#47834297)

The funny part is that you clearly didn't realize this

What's funnier is that you didn't stop to think that the AC may well have deliberately worded it in such a way* so as to comically exaggerate the disparaging light in which he's painting the research.

* I'm not saying he definitely did. But he probably did.

Re:Yeah, because that's a good idea. (1)

kruach aum (1934852) | about two weeks ago | (#47834481)

No I did consider it and I'm fairly certain s/hes plain retarded.

Re:Yeah, because that's a good idea. (2)

mellon (7048) | about two weeks ago | (#47834143)

The problem with Monsanto modifying the genes of plants is that:

  • they make plants that produce chemicals to kill pests, with possibly unknown health effects (although at this point these effects have been studied pretty thoroughly)
  • they make plants that are resistant to herbicides, which promotes the use of these herbicides, which promotes the development of superweeds
  • they patent everything and engage in licensing schemes that are really harmful to small farmers.

In my mind, the last item is the one that I care most about, although the superweeds are a close second. Also, as kruach aum says, you appear to be pretty ignorant about how this all works, so your opinion as to what's safe or unsafe or a good idea is not well-informed, and hence not something anybody needs to pay much attention to. I say this not to put you down, but rather to encourage you to become better informed: to actually try to understand the science rather than just making a simplistic mental model of it and then conjecturing on the basis of that model. That way of thinking is extremely damaging to our culture at present, and you really should stop doing it.

Re:Yeah, because that's a good idea. (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about two weeks ago | (#47834717)

superweeds

Dude, just go to Japan. Kudzu and shit.

Re:Yeah, because that's a good idea. (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about two weeks ago | (#47834707)

That's not a food problem. Eventually I will finish the site [taxforthepeople.us] with charts and graphs and the math showing everything, as well as careful transitional plans, and we can get on to eliminating homelessness and hunger. I've already solved these problems.

Huh? (1)

msauve (701917) | about two weeks ago | (#47833743)

"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?

Re:Huh? (1)

Exitar (809068) | about two weeks ago | (#47833777)

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.

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47833887)

With coffee trees, yeah. What is the breeding cycling, about 10-20 years? We have to slow down climate change (man-made or not) as well as defeat rust, without using innate immunity. Which is what we use for many other crops (there's a reason you get new crops about every 5-10 years, and it has nothing to do with GMO).

Re:Huh? (1)

mod prime (3597787) | about two weeks ago | (#47834041)

Artificial selection is primitive research that allows for improvement, you have to wait and get lucky. We've actually been doing it for quite a long time. This is not 'advanced', even though advances have been made - there are limitations to the process.

Re:Huh? (1)

msauve (701917) | about two weeks ago | (#47834147)

You're confusing research and development. There's a reason both terms are used, and it's not for redundancy.

Re:Huh? (1)

mod prime (3597787) | about two weeks ago | (#47834287)

In what way am I confusing these things?

News flash (2)

invictusvoyd (3546069) | about two weeks ago | (#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

Nothing is ever good enough (2)

LookIntoTheFuture (3480731) | about two weeks ago | (#47833779)

Don't fuck with my coffee!!!

Re:Nothing is ever good enough (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about two weeks ago | (#47833891)

Don't fuck with my coffee!!!

What, you don't like creamer?

Re:Nothing is ever good enough (1)

LookIntoTheFuture (3480731) | about two weeks ago | (#47833997)

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.

This is robusta coffee they're talking about (5, Interesting)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | about two weeks ago | (#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.

Re:This is robusta coffee they're talking about (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47833907)

> Currently in tdon't like bitter coffee. Different kind of bitter.he 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.

No, we don't like bitter coffee. Different kind of bitter than hops. Starbucks is awful.

Re:This is robusta coffee they're talking about (2)

Demonantis (1340557) | about two weeks ago | (#47834033)

Starbucks is a fairly dark roast arabica for the regular coffee. The Pike Place is a medium roast so ask for that if you don't like the default. Robusta is popular in Sweden(?), I think. They switched over to it in the early 1900s(?) and everyone just grew accustomed to the taste. Its all about different strokes for different folks.

Re:This is robusta coffee they're talking about (1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834367)

Actually, pretty much all coffe (except the cheapest crap and instant coffe) here in sweden are 100% Arabica. You have to buy the store's own "cheap-ass" brand to get coffe with rubusta in it, and then it's at most 50% Robusta. (Eldorado in in willy's stores, Euro-shopper in Ica stores, X-tra in Coop stores and Bremer at Lidl.)

Re:This is robusta coffee they're talking about (1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834023)

I've traveled to parts of the world - Brazil, Belize, Eastern Europe, and there are probably many others - where the "standard" coffee you get in rural restaurants is Robusta. I can identify it very easily, and I would never call it bitter. It's just ... a completely different sort of drink from Arabica coffee. If I had to describe it, I'd say it's like Arabica with the pleasing flavors removed, and a bunch of tar-like flavors added. I can understand how people get used to it, but I'd have a hard time.

Re:This is robusta coffee they're talking about (2)

omems (1869410) | about two weeks ago | (#47834355)

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 reasons I don't know.

Motherfuckers (2)

gatkinso (15975) | about two weeks ago | (#47833837)

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

Re:Motherfuckers (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about two weeks ago | (#47833897)

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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47833965)

If it's bitter you are probably using the wrong beans or brewing it wrong. Try a lighter roast with a lowered temperature and a press instead of a machine. As an added bonus a light roast will generally brew with more caffeine in your drink.

Re:Motherfuckers (3, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about two weeks ago | (#47834099)

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.

Re:Motherfuckers (5, Interesting)

mellon (7048) | about two weeks ago | (#47834235)

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.

Re:Motherfuckers (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about two weeks ago | (#47834303)

hey, thanks for the tip!

Re:Motherfuckers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834339)

Try it with milk, which already contains the perfect amount of sugar for coffee (and more healthy than cane sugar).

Re:Motherfuckers (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about two weeks ago | (#47834115)

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

Make it taste better? (1)

B5_geek (638928) | about two weeks ago | (#47833845)

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

Tastes better to who?

Re:Make it taste better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834127)

A-T, and C-G obviously taste better than A-C, A-G, T-C and T-G

Coffea canephora = robusta = less important (1)

dwpro (520418) | about two weeks ago | (#47833853)

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: Coffea canephora = robusta = less important (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834065)

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.

I welcome our new coffee overlords (1)

jennatalia (2684459) | about two weeks ago | (#47833855)

Make it so we can grow coffee in the midwest and we won't have to import it.

Re:I welcome our new coffee overlords (1)

Lord Lemur (993283) | about two weeks ago | (#47834217)

Annex Central America (the same way we annexed the midwest), and we won't have to import it either. Less tounge in cheek, let's not make our coffee supply dependant on a near depleted aquifur. We already use it for our inferior subistutes for dead dinosuaurs and sugar.

better able to endure drought, disease and pests. (0)

ddtmm (549094) | about two weeks ago | (#47833917)

"help in the development of new coffee varieties better able to endure drought, disease and pests," Sounds a lot like Monsanto. GMO to fight against pests will certainly backfire at some point in the future. It sounds more like, let's do it because we can, and not because there's good reason.

Re: better able to endure drought, disease and pes (1)

mellon (7048) | about two weeks ago | (#47834249)

The pest people are worried about is rust, which is killing off a lot of coffee trees and driving up the price of coffee.

Glow in the dark coffee (3, Insightful)

sideslash (1865434) | about two weeks ago | (#47833931)

Let's do it for science.

F**k Robusta (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47833935)

I don't drink that crap, only good stuff. Makes me wonder, who is paying for this agro research? Is it folgers or some other shitty brand?

The important thing (2)

robstout (2873439) | about two weeks ago | (#47833967)

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'm Still Bummed Out (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about two weeks ago | (#47833969)

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.

Fuck you (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about two weeks ago | (#47834091)

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.

tomacco!! (1)

Randy9 (3814057) | about two weeks ago | (#47834131)

GMO FTW

Dont mess with my coffee!!!! (1)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | about two weeks ago | (#47834151)

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 genome.

The fact is, GMOs are not safe, and its not the same as selective breeding. Selective breeding puts natural limits on reproduction since only the genes of two of the same species can be combined. There is a slower rate of change which limits the risk and the danger. Because GMO allows for changes that would not occur in regular selective breeding, the danger is greatly and vastly increased. Studies have shown that GMOs can cause liver and kidney damage and can cuase cancer. I know some of these studies were done by Greenpeace. So what. Do you expect the pharmacuetical corporations will be glad to carry out studies that show their own products kill people? Its much easier to see a profit motivation behind studies funded by pharmacuetical companies who have a profit motive, than a non-profit like Greenpeace which only has your welfare and the welfare of the environment in mind.

Re:Dont mess with my coffee!!!! (2)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about two weeks ago | (#47834313)

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.

Re:Dont mess with my coffee!!!! (1)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | about two weeks ago | (#47834403)

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 GMOs unpredictable. GMO soybeans had significantly increased levels of trypsin inhibitor and reduced protiens, therefore, it made every negative quality of soy worse. Sure, selective breeding has its own problems, which can be seen with wheat as described in the book wheat belly that as a result of Green Revolution manipulation, wheat is now a health destroying food thathas vastly more gluten than it had before and has a lot to do with the obesity epidemic and all of the fat ill people waddling around. But you can take the effects of selective breeding and amplify the danger a hundred times with GMOs. GMO manipulation has been shown to have vastly greater and more devastating impact, for instance, by causing the GMO organism to produce carcinogenic compounds, as shown with studies.

If you want to see a more full treatment of the dangers of GMOs, please do read Jeffrey Smith's book on GMOs. All you are hearing is the marketing propoganda paid for by agribusiness that is designed to cover up the danger and whitewash it just as they did with smoking and lung cancer. These are the same people that told you that smoking was safe and used clever marketing to trick you into it so you would think it was cool. The environmental organizations such as Greenpeace have no fish to fry except to be concerned for your safety, which is the reason they exist. I am not anti-technology, to say that unless you support every and any technology you are antitechnology is absurd, this was nonsense cooked up by the agribusiness PR psychology unit people to manipulate you for their purposes. I am against technology which threatens human health and is unethical. With GMO we are messing with the environment by inrroducing changes that would not occur in billions of years of evolution, selective breeding or with natural breeding.

Re:Dont mess with my coffee!!!! (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about two weeks ago | (#47834693)

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 makes anything other than asexual reproduction unpredictable. In fact, there are more random interactions with natural crossbreeding than GMO.

All you are hearing is the marketing propoganda paid for by agribusiness that is designed to cover up the danger and whitewash it just as they did with smoking and lung cancer.

You are acting as if there isn't a lot of money in the natural foods market. There is money on both sides, and neither one has a moral high ground. Again, I am 100% and I think Monsanto is evil (a term I do not throw around lightly), but I also believe that without GMO, we are going to face some kind of cataclysm in our food and industrial crops. I think it's also important that we don't allow GMO patents, which cuts a lot of perverse incentives for fudging research.

Re:Dont mess with my coffee!!!! (3)

omems (1869410) | about two weeks ago | (#47834563)

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.

Decaffeinated coffee (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834269)

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 regular coffee:

  http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20061011/decaf-coffee-isnt-caffeine-free

Breeding methods probably won't do better than that, but proper genetic engineering might.

I realize you personally may like as much caffeine as possible in your coffee, but that doesn't mean there isn't a huge untapped market for better decaf.

Arghhhh. Come on! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834283)

This is a bunch of MBA's, and marketing wizards trying to create a niche coffee market using science! Hey. A new market we can profit on!

Granted there is ~some reason and interest to keep the coffee plant drastic weather tolerant with genetics, but these people aren't going after that, and certainly not for seed and strain protection. There's nothing wrong with coffee. It doesn't need to be tinkered with to add 'rosebud' gene LC5A, or some damn obscurity.

Quote apropos: "Just because we can, doesn't mean we should!"

Apoplectic (2)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about two weeks ago | (#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.

Genetics mod? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834333)

Give me coffee with tetrahydrocannabinol, chocolate and caffeine.

Re:Genetics mod? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about two weeks ago | (#47834551)

Give me coffee with tetrahydrocannabinol, chocolate and caffeine.

Grind some NoDoze up in Chocolate Chip cookie batter, add a couple of drops of hash oil and you're there.

Wherever that happens to be.

Nobody here has read _Oryx & Crake_? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834467)

Happicuppa here we come!

GMO Forever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47834489)

Pile it on, baby.

Civet Poop (1)

PPH (736903) | about two weeks ago | (#47834567)

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

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>