Australian and Chinese scientists have made a genetic discovery that could improve the taste, shelf life and yields of tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables.

Researchers at the Australia-China Research Centre for Crop Improvement have identified a gene in tomatoes that inhibits certain sugars from developing, according to an article on, a Web site that covers the seed industry.

Removing the gene could improve the quality and hardiness of a variety of fruits and vegetables, according to researchers. The Australia-China Research Centre is a joint effort of Australia’s University of Newcastle and China’s Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

The study appears in the July 2009 edition of The Plant Cell, a plant science journal.

The research was driven by a need to guarantee future food supplies on a changing planet, said Yong-Ling Ruan, the director of the Australia-China Research Centre.

“With predictions the global population may double over the next 50 years, scientists are concerned about the pressure on the world’s natural resources,” Ruan said in the article. “Faced with the impact of climate change and population increases on food supply, our research is helping to meet the challenge of how to sustain and improve crop yield and quality.”