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Scientists used gene editing to fix a flaw in tomato breeding

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Humans have been crossing plants and selecting their best traits for thousands of years in pursuit of the perfect tomato. Now, scientists have figured out that the genes underlying two of the characteristics we've chosen over the years have been limiting how many tomatoes can be grown on a plant.

The researchers used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to find a sweet spot where those genetic combinations are balanced, and created a plant that produced more tomatoes. Potatoes, eggplants, bell peppers and other plants with genes in the same family could potentially be tuned in a similar way, the researchers suggest.

Why it matters: Breeders and genetic engineers are always trying to increase the yield of plants, especially as food security becomes a pressing concern. The approach has essentially been to incorporate one positive trait on top of another. The new research shows that is a "naive assumption," says Jim Giovannoni from the Boyce Thompson Institute.