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Genetic engineering could create spicy tomatoes

Tweaks to the tomato’s genes could turn it into a spicy one-stop shop for the salsa of the future, Popular Science reports. Shared ancestry with hot peppers, such as the jalapeno, gives the mild-mannered tomato all the genetic tools needed to set the human mouth ablaze. Scientists outline two genetic pathways to turn tomatoes spicy in new research published this week in Trends in Plant Science. The motivation for turning up the heat on the tomato isn’t just culinary. Capsaicinoids, the chemicals that make food taste “hot,” have shown promise as painkillers and are used in products like pepper spray. Chili peppers are harder to grow and less productive than tomatoes, so by activating the tomato’s ability to produce capsaicinoids researchers could increase yields and lower costs.

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