The natural sweetener in your soft drink or chocolate bar could soon come from an unlikely source: potatoes. Researchers at the University of Picardie Jules Verne in Amiens, France, have genetically modified potatoes to multiply their fructose production about 40 times. The team inserted three bacterial genes into the potato’s DNA, each gene coding for a different enzyme involved in converting starch to fructose.
Most fructose is made today by adding vast quantities of enzymes to large chemical tanks of corn. But the genetically modified potatoes turn starch into fructose inside the vegetable. This makes for a much more efficient and economical process, says Rajbir Sangwan, the plant scientist who led the project. A number of food-processing companies in Europe have expressed interest in using the French technology. But Sangwan says it could be another three to five years before the potatoes are ready for the food industry.