• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Emerging Science Note/GM Java

Air Date: Week of June 20, 2003

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Living on Earth’s Cynthia Graber reports on a new way to get the caffeine out of coffee.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Coming up: the opposite of fast food. First, this Note on Emerging Science from Cynthia Graber.

[MUSIC: Science Note theme]

GRABER: Some people like their coffee decaffeinated. But getting the buzz out of the beans is an expensive process. It can be done chemically by adding a solvent to soaking beans. The caffeine bonds to the solvent and is flushed away.

But the down side is that the solvent becomes a waste disposal headache. One environmentally-benign process uses carbon dioxide, and another uses water to get the jive out of java. But coffee aficionados and roasters complain that the process leaves a bean that pales in comparison to its more robust, caffeinated cousin.

So, scientists are developing a genetically-modified plant that represses the enzyme that helps create caffeine in the first place. In one experiment, 35 transgenic seedlings were cultivated and had between 50 and 70 percent less caffeine than their wild cousins.

If the process can be replicated in the field it could eliminate the need for costly – and some say tasteless – caffeine removal systems. But critics worry that caffeine protects coffee plants from insects and herbivores and from harmful fungi. Some of these fungi produce toxins that can harm human health.

That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science. I’m Cynthia Graber.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Parlour “The Living Beginning” Octopus Off-Broadway Temporary Residence (2002)]

 

 

Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Newsletter
Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Major funding for Living on Earth is provided by the National Science Foundation.

Committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy business.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live.

Kendeda Fund, furthering the values that contribute to a healthy planet.

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.