Science  21 Apr 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5772, pp. 345
DOI: 10.1126/science.312.5772.345a

Stamppot—mashed potatoes mixed with bacon and cabbage—may be the Dutch idea of bliss, but for Christian Bachem, a plant scientist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, it's the potato genome that gets the juices running.

Bachem is spearheading the effort to sequence the potato's 12 chromosomes. A 16-nation consortium, including leading potato producers China, India, Russia, and Poland, has spent the past 6 months trying to come up with money to get started. Now, thanks to $3.6 million from the Dutch government, deciphering of the first chromosome will soon be under way.

Only two other human food staples—rice and tomatoes—have made it into the sequencing pipeline. But potatoes are getting really hot: Consumption in Asia is skyrocketing as rice, wheat, and corn production declines and McDonald's French fries continue to spread, says Bachem. With the genome sequence in hand, researchers will be able to more easily build in resistance to cold, drought, and disease and possibly come up with a healthy potato chip, he says. Sequencers hope to finish the job by 2010.

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