Groundbreaking Dutch Onion Science

By Gijsbrecht Gunter, President HOA

When, relatively recently, the human genome was published, it turned the world upside down. Groups of researchers all around the world contributed to the immense Human Genome Project. It had taken 1,000 hard-working researchers working on the science for 13 years and an investment of 2.7 billion dollars and resulted in headline news all over the world.

Now, 18 years later, there is again front-page news: the genome of the most-eaten vegetable in the world has finally been deciphered. Two Dutch scientists have succeeded where no one in the world had succeeded up to now. The complete base sequence of the onion's genetic material has been deciphered. It was a mammoth task since the onion's complete DNA set is no less than 5 times larger than the human one.

The impact of this discovery is enormously important world-wide because onions are a primary necessity for a very large part of the world's population. Understanding the genome means we can understand faster how to make onions more tolerant of drought or more resistant to diseases and pests. We can much better study the large range of health effects of onions. Knowledge of the newly uncovered DNA sequence will accelerate the process of breeding new and better onion varieties by a factor two.

All credit goes to Dr. Ing. Richard Finkers and Dr. Ir. Olga Scholten of the world-famous Wageningen UR! The (onion) world is very grateful!

Hats off!