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China completes vanilla genome sequencing

Updated: Feb 11,2015 4:12 PM     Xinhua

FUZHOU — Chinese scientists have completed the genome sequencing of Vanilla Shenzhenica, providing insight that will further fuel research into vanilla and the development of related industries.

The genome sequencing project, which the scientists said has produced the world’s first orchid genetic map, was a collaboration between Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University and the National Orchid Conservation Center of China, which is based in Shenzhen, in July 2014.

A genome is the full complement of an organism’s DNA; complex molecules that direct the formation and function of all living organisms. The size of an organism’s genome is measured by the number of bases it contains — base pairs being the building blocks of DNA.

“The research has helped us to understand the evolutionary history of the orchid, and it’s of great importance to the conservation and breeding of the species,” said Lan Siren, head of Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University at a news conference on Feb 7.

Liu Zhongjian, chief scientist with the National Orchid Conservation Center of China said that the genome sequencing would make it possible to alter orchid properties through transgenic technology, indicating a possibility that a synthetic version of vanilla may be produced in the future.

Vanilla is the world’s second expensive spice after saffron. It is widely used in food, cosmetics, tobacco and pharmaceutical products.