Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Develop Healthier Barley

February 27, 2013

Scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark have developed a method which can be used to produce a unique type of barley containing only the healthy form of carbohydrate. The most common form of carbohydrate is the starch. However, not all forms of starch are healthy. The easily digestible type contains primarily amylopectin. This is rapidly broken down in the gut and assimilated into the bloodstream as sugar. The less easily digestible starch contains primarily amylose. This tends to pass through the small intestine and in the large intestine to be broken down by bacteria, which has positive effects on health.

With this, scientists developed a plant that contained starch consisting mainly of amylose, without affecting yields. They used barley as a model plant – an important crop that is used for both food and fodder. The innovation made use of genetic and biotechnological methods that enabled specific genes in the barley to be switched off. The novel method allows several genes to be switched off in one go rather than just the one gene as has hitherto been the practice.

For more information, view Aarhus University's news release at