Burnt bread contains a compound known as acrylamide, a chemical that can cause cancer. The darker the toast, the more acrylamide in the bread.
While most people toss black toast in the trash, some do like dark brown toast. However, plant scientists in England have found a way to reduce the cancer risk from toasted bread. The scientists used gene editing to design a type of wheat that produces less acrylamide when bread made with it is toasted.
Gene editing, also known as genome editing, is a plant breeding technique where scientists can delete genes from the DNA of a plant or insert a genetic code from the same family of plants.
The cancer risk from brown toast or Ritz crackers is probably very low, but the Rothamsted scientists used genome editing to “knock out” the gene that produces asparagine in wheat.
In one type of wheat, they were able to reduce the amount of asparagine by 90 percent.
That’s potentially good news for bakers and food companies, which monitor acrylamide in their products and have developed processing methods to reduce the amount of the chemical in crackers, chips and other products.