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US boffins create GM 'supercarrot'

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US scientists have created a genetically-modified carrot which delivers a much higher dose of calcium than the bog-standard carrot and may help "ward off conditions such as brittle bone disease and osteoporosis", the BBC reports.

The team at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas claims in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that "someone eating the new carrot absorbs 41 per cent more calcium than if they ate the old". This is due to an added gene which "allows the calcium within it to cross more easily over the plant membranes".

The upshot is that people who need a calcium boost but who are advised to avoid dairy products due to allergies or their high fat contents might avail themselves of the "supercarrot", although it wouldn't on its own be able to provide the 1,000mg recommended daily dose.

Accordingly, other veg might be similarly manipulated to further boost intake.

However, the supercarrot won't be coming to a Sunday lunch near you in the immediate future. Team member Professor Kendal Hirschi said: "Much more research needs to be conducted before this would be available to consumers."

The GM vegetable research field is booming, the BBC notes. Boffins are working on a spud with "more starch and less water so that they absorb less oil when fried, producing healthier chips or crisps", while looking at ways to boost broccoli's sulforaphane content - a chemical which "may help people ward off cancer".

Professor Susan Fairweather-Tait of the University of East Anglia concluded that "genetically engineering foods to increase their nutrient content was becoming an increasingly important avenue".

She said: "People are being told to eat more modestly to prevent weight gain, and many diets now no longer contain everything we need. There has been great resistance to genetic engineering, but gradually we are moving away from the spectre of 'Frankenstein food' and starting to appreciate the health benefits it may bring." ®

Bootnote

We at El Reg have a suggestion for the Baylor College of Medicine team: a fluorescent carrot created using jellyfish genetic material which allows those who have not yet availed themselves of carrots' legendary powers to improve night vision to find them in the dark. Oh yes, and we want a fluorescent dog, too. Thanks.

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