February 18, 2008

Cornoil on the Cob

Perhaps the development of corn is the greatest feat ever performed by Man. It is only recently that scientists were able to use DNA to figure out where corn came from (a certain type of grass)... it must have taken the Indians hundreds of generations to slowly turn grass into corn by picking and choosing the best crops to plant next to each other. Corn revolutionized how the world lived. Now, scientists are tweaking corn once again -- this time to make it yield more oil when it's turned into fuel.

Agricultural scientists in the United States have identified a key gene that determines oil yield in a corn, a finding that could have repercussions for the fast-expanding biofuels industry. The gene lies on Chromosome 6 of the maize genome, according to a paper published on Sunday by Nature Genetics. It encodes a catalysing enzyme called DGAT1-2, which carries out the final step in the plant's oil-making process. In addition, a tiny amino acid variant within this gene can boost the yield of oil and oleic acid -- the sought-after edible fat in corn -- by up to 41 percent and 107 percent respectively.

But how will it taste, and what it would do to my cholesterol level? And if cattle get lose in a corn-oil field, will burgers be even more greasy?

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