How Corn Became King
July 28, 2015 09:12 AM - Kelly April Tyrrell, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ten thousand years ago, a golden grain got naked, brought people together and grew to become one of the top agricultural commodities on the planet.
Now, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have found that just a single letter change in the genetic script of corn's ancestor, teosinte, helped make it all possible.
Publishing in the journal Genetics this month, UW-Madison genetics Professor John Doebley and a team of researchers describe how, during the domestication of corn, a single nucleotide change in the teosinte glume architectural gene (tga1) stripped away the hard, inedible casing of this wild grass, ultimately exposing the edible golden kernel.
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"If I offered you a bruised banana, you probably wouldn’t be interested,” said Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, director of Drexel University’s Center for Hospitality and Sport Management. “But what if I offered you some banana ice cream on a hot summer day? I bet you’d find that a lot more appealing.”
It was this simple observation that inspired a new model for recovering would-be wasted – or surplus – food and repurposing it to feed hungry people, generate revenue and even create jobs. The model was recently piloted in West Philadelphia, home to a large population of low-income and food insecure individuals, as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge with support from Brown’s Super Stores.
Compiled by researchers from Drexel University, University of Pennsylvania, Cabrini College and the EPA, the results were published in Food and Nutrition Sciences, a peer-reviewed international journal dedicated to the latest advancements in food and nutrition sciences. The report also projects the amount of food that could be saved if the program was replicated nationally.
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