Genome Map Opens Up Possibilities

Researchers team up in effort to map the corn genome.

Scientists at universities and corporations are about to get a major leg up in their tireless — and profitable — effort to reinvent the corn plant. A group of researchers led by Washington University in St. Louis have mapped out the corn plant’s massive genome, and is posting the research on the Internet.

The project’s leader says the sequence map is the holy grail for scientists trying to improve a crop that is traded globally for food, animal feed, and fuel.

"If you really want to get into the nuts and bolts, all the parts, and understand how things fit together and how things work … the genome is basically the key to doing that," says Richard Wilson, director of Washington University’s Genome Sequencing Center.

There is still some clean-up work left to be done to the corn genome sequence, though it is essentially completed, he says. The genome will be publicly announced Thursday at the 50th Annual Maize Genetics Conference in Washington D.C.

Agribusiness corporations like Monsanto Co. are tweaking the corn genome to increase the plant’s productivity. Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer Robert Fraley says having access to the corn genome will push research forward by helping university researchers discover new corn traits. Companies like Monsanto will then be able to license those discoveries for new products, he adds.

Corn is only the third plant to have its genome sequenced, Wilson says, behind rice and a popular plant for genetic research called Arabidopsis.

(Source: The Associated Press)

 

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