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September 13, 2008, 1:26 pm

Cracking the potato's genetic sequence

Scientists are racing to sequence all the genes of the potato - this will not make tastier chips, but might help to develop potatoes with genes able to resist disease and difficult environmental conditions to feed the world's growing population.

[Science Daily]

Why would scientists in many different countries want to find out about the genes of a potato?

The answer lies in history (see below) as well as science - potatoes contain large amounts of starch, which is easily broken down in our body to release a lot of energy. They are used as a 'staple' food in the diet of many people the world over - it is the third most important crop after rice and wheat.

What is starch and how is it broken down by the cells of our body? Read more about how starch gives us energy to do things here.

Starch is a carbohydrate - read more details here.

Click here for teacher activity suggestions on carbohydrates.

In Europe, potatoes enabled a rapid growth of the population during the industrial revolution. Failure of the potato crop due to infection by the potato blight caused the major famine in Ireland.