Thanks to a team of researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA), non-allergenic “super” peanuts are now in the making. The scientists involved in the study were able to identify specific genes in the peanut by decoding its overall DNA. They hope these findings can now be used to develop new varieties of peanuts, which could not only change the lives of the millions of people allergic to peanuts, but also be used to alter the corps’ nutritional value and productivity.
Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), this is the first discovery of its kind and was carried out by scientists from UWA and several global research organizations including the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
Peanut allergies have a particularly high prevalence in Australia, affecting approximately 3% of the population and can cause a severe allergic response if not treated quickly. In addition, they are an important global food source and one the most economically important crops. They are currently grown in more than 100 countries, with approximately 46 million tons produced every year.
“This discovery brings us that one step closer to creating peanuts that will have significant benefits globally,” said Professor Rajeev Varshney, who was involved in the study. “We will also be able to produce peanuts that have more health benefits with improved nutritional value.”
Professor Varshney added that their next step is to alter the genes and test the results in geocarpy (the productive process in the peanut), to develop new non-allergenic varieties of peanuts.
“This will provide an efficient road map for sustainable and resilient groundnut production for improved livelihoods of smallholder farmers particularly in the marginal environments of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr. David Bergvinson, Director General of ICRISAT.
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