strange brew

Researchers from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology of Japan are growing decaffeinated coffee plants. Shinjiro Ogita and colleagues report in the June 19 Nature that they have genetically modified coffee plants to repress a key caffeine-making gene, thereby reducing the caffeine content of the engineered plants by up to 70 percent. Coffee is currently decaffeinated in expensive industrial processes that use solvents to get rid of the stimulant — as well as much of the flavor, according to connoisseurs. The modified plants are only a year old and have not produced beans, but the researchers believe that their plants will produce decaf that tastes more like the real thing.

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 6/24/2003.
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