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Quinona: Sacred “mother grain” of Ancient Inca Civilization may be the Grain of Future

Plant scientist Mark Tester of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia said the research pinpointed a gene that guides production of saponins in quinoa

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FILE - A man holds quinoa grains at a marketplace for small- and medium-sized quinoa growers in Challapata, Oruro Department, south of La Paz, Bolivia, April 19, 2014. VOA
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Feb 12, 2017: Quinoa, the sacred “mother grain” of the ancient Inca civilization suppressed by Spanish conquistadors, could become an increasingly important food source in the future thanks to genetic secrets revealed in a new study.

Scientists on Wednesday said they have mapped the genome of quinoa and identified a gene that could be manipulated to get rid of the grain’s natural bitter taste and pave the way for more widespread commercial use.

Quinoa already grows well in harsh conditions such as salty and low-quality soil, high elevations and cool temperatures, meaning it can flourish in locales where common cereal crops like wheat and rice may struggle. But the presence of toxic and bitter chemicals called saponins in its seeds has been one of the impediments to extensive cultivation.

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Plant scientist Mark Tester of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia said the research pinpointed a gene that guides production of saponins in quinoa.

FILE – Aymara indigenous women grind grains of quinoa in Oruro, Bolivia, in 2013. VOA

This knowledge could enable breeding of quinoa without saponins, to make the seeds sweeter.

Currently, quinoa grain must be processed through washing and drying after harvest to remove saponins.

“Quinoa is currently greatly under-utilized,” said Tester, who led the research published in the journal Nature. “It is highly nutritious, with a high protein content that, importantly, has a very good balance of amino acids, which is unusual for our major grains. It is gluten free and high in vitamins and minerals, too.”

Increased quinoa production could improve food security on a planet with unrelenting human population growth, Tester said.

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There are potential disadvantages to reducing saponins, perhaps increasing susceptibility to fungal infections or bird predation, Tester added.

Quinoa, which boasts a nutty flavor, can be used the same ways as rice and wheat. It can be cooked and served on its own, turned into pasta, put in soups, eaten as a cereal or fermented to make beer or chicha, a beverage of the Andes.

The crop was sacred to the ancient Incas, who called it “chisoya mama,” or the “mother grain.”

During their South American conquest 500 years ago, Spaniards suppressed quinoa cultivation because of its use in indigenous religious ceremonies. They forbade quinoa cultivation for a time, with the Incas forced to grow wheat instead.

Quinoa is still a minor crop globally, grown mostly in Peru and Bolivia. It has become fashionable in the West in recent years, primarily as a health food. (VOA)

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Facebook Messenger To Now Translate Messages From English To Spanish Automatically

F8 is an annual conference held by Facebook, intended for developers and entrepreneurs who build products and services around the website

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Before its collapse, Cambridge Analytica insisted it had indeed wiped the data after Facebook's erasure request in December 2015. Pixabay

Facebook Messenger can now automatically translate messages from Spanish to English and vice versa, media reports said.

“‘M’ — the Facebook Messenger AI bot can now translate your conversation. The ‘M’ translations join the existing M suggestions features that already help you generate quick replies, polls and other conversation starters,” tech website wersm.com reported late on Sunday.

Originally announced at Facebook F8, the feature, called “M’s” translation suggestions, debuted as one of the social networking giant’s new tools for businesses and used to only work for chats between buyers and sellers in Marketplace.

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Facebook mobile app, Pixabay

F8 is an annual conference held by Facebook, intended for developers and entrepreneurs who build products and services around the website.

“It understands when a message is written in a language which is not the recipient’s default app language and offers to translate it. ‘M’ will then show a pop-up that offers to immediately translate all messages from that specific recipient,” the report added.

Also Read: Facebook Hires A Team To Find Troubles Before They Arise

The messaging app and platform by Facebook would support translation in other languages soon and the feature is already available in the US and Mexico.

The social network believes the feature would enable people to connect in a way that is seamless and natural — it’s definitely much easier to switch on auto-translate than to jump between Messenger and a translator app again and again, according to Engadget. (IANS)