The genetic code for coffee is no longer a secret. Brazilian scientists concluded
the first large-scale sequencing of the coffee plant genome and assembled
the world's largest data bank on the bean.
There are 200 thousand
DNA sequences. Sequencing made it possible to identify over 30 thousand genes
responsible for various of the plant's growth and development mechanisms (leaves,
roots, fruit, flowers, and branches).
The official announcement
of the sequencing was made August 10 by the Minister of Agriculture, Roberto
Rodrigues. He also signed a technical cooperation contract to regulate access
to and use of the information.
The data will be kept
by the Agronomic and Environmental Genomes Network of the São Paulo
Research Assistance Foundation (Fapesp) and the Genetic Resources and Biotechnology
Center (Cenargen) of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Company (Embrapa),
With the success of the
Coffee Genome Project, initiated in February, 2002, Brazil becomes the leader
in genetic research on the beverage, and Brazilian scientists have acquired
greater knowledge of the plant's genome.
Brazil is one of the few
countries in the world to master the technology of sequencing complete genomes.
The country recently concluded sequencing the genetic codes of Xylella, Xantohmonas
(two plant bacteria), and sugar cane.
The data generated by
the Genome Project, says Minister Rodrigues, will benefit the entire coffee
productive chain, especially small growers, by making technological inclusion
available to family farming.
Mastery of the genetic
code will make it possible to develop more productive varieties, capable of
tolerating climatic variations (such as drought and frost) and resisting the
attacks of pests and diseases currently controlled through the use of agricultural
According to Rodrigues,
sequencing of the genome unveils an "extraordinary horizon" for
the competitiveness of coffee-growing in Brazil, diminishing production costs
and upgrading the quality of the product.
and the quality of our coffee will be enhanced by the genetic improvement
of the plants."
The Minister pointed out
that, with the sequencing, the country assumes the position of front-runner
in the race to patent coffee genes and advances at least two decades in terms
of progress in research and improvements in cultivation.
Consumers will also obtain
benefits. The data generated by the project will accelerate the development
of other, higher quality plants, with more aroma and flavor and superior nutritional
characteristics (levels of caffeine, vitamins, and minerals).
a Brazilian vanguard in scientific terms," the Minister affirmed, emphasizing
that, with the genome, Brazil, which is already the world's biggest producer
and exporter and second-biggest consumer of coffee, will increase its competitiveness
in the sector even more.
On another front, the
medical one, researchers from São Carlos and Ribeirão Preto,
in the state of São Paulo, are trying to discover alternative ways
to treat skin cancer.
The study is being conducted
by the schools of medicine and chemistry at the Ribeirão Preto campus
of the University of São Paulo (USP) and the physics department at
the USP campus in São Carlos.
They are testing new drugs
and the prototype of a domestically manufactured laser device that reduces
the cost of treatment.
The clinical trials have
already produced positive results. The 100 patients on which the therapy was
tested showed a 70-80 percent improvement in cases of skin cancer. The laser
beam activates the drug applied to the lesion, without surgery or counter
indications, and the skin heals in three months.
is a proposed treatment for cancer; nevertheless, it can be used for other
disorders through the association of a light source with a topical remedy
to destroy tumor cells," affirmed the researcher, Casilda da Silva Souza.
Maurício Cardoso works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official
press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.