important election coverage
The new Crop Science features several reports from a Symposium on Genomics and Plant Breeding, including Major M. Goodman, "Plant Breeding Requirements for Applied Molecular Biology," Crop Science 44 1913-14 , which concludes:
Any molecularly engineered trait of clear economic use will be rapidly utilized by plant breeders. What is lacking at present is an array of useful transgenic traits. The easy and obvious ones have been implemented. At the moment, the pipeline of molecularly engineered traits appears to be largely empty. [Bt for maize rootworms (Diabrotica spp.) has recently become available, but it has few companions.] Indeed, the question can be asked, does the pipeline exist or do we just have random bits of pipe strewn about, with rather little organization?
There is little doubt that plants (and animals) will be used to produce certain chemicals and pharmaceticals, but this is apt to be on a horticultural scale, rather than a broad-based agricultural effort. There is considerable need for fungal and bacterial protection of crop plants, but progress has been slow. Worldwide, the greatest problem that needs to be solved for most food- and feed-crops is postharvest protection against insects and vermin. That would solve far more problems than adding carotene to rice or lysine to maize.
They do not, however, appear to have picked up on the efficacy of Coke as a pesticide.
Finally, scientists discover that fat is a lubricant! I kid: René A. de Wijk et al., "The role of friction in perceived oral texture," Food Quality and Preference 16 (March 2005): 121-129. Abstract:
Instrumentally measured in vitro friction in semi-solid foods was related to oral texture sensations. Increased fat content resulted in lower sensations of roughness, higher sensations of creaminess, and lower friction, suggesting that lubrication is the mechanism by which fat affects oral texture in low fat foods. Starch breakdown by salivary amylase in low fat foods resulted in reduced friction, possibly through the release of fat from the starch food matrix, and the migration of fat to the surface of the bolus where it becomes available for lubrication. No evidence was found that salivary mucins or salivary viscosity play a role in lubrication. Astringent sensations may be related to reduced lubrication and increased friction caused by particles, either resulting from precipitation of salivary protein rich proteins or from flocculation of dead cells.