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SMS Sponsors Grape Genomics Symposium

SMS is helping bring scientists from all over the world together in St Louis this week for the first-ever International Grape Genomics Symposium. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

When you take a sip of your favorite wine, chances are there's a lot of science behind that taste you enjoy.

And because the science is getting more sophisticated, Dr. Jim Baker, the SMS Vice President of Research and Development and Chancellor of the SMS Mountain Grove Campus came up with the idea to hold a symposium on grape genomics.

SMS, the Eastern Section of the American Society of Enology and Viticulture and the International Grape Genome Program are hosting the International Grape Genomics Symposium.

Studying grape genomics means looking for the building blocks of grape genomes, which include all the genes that determine the biological make-up of the fruit.

That will be the topic of discussion this week in St Louis where researchers and scientists from 15 different countries are meeting.

During the conference, scientists will discuss the possibility of taking certain characteristics in wild grapes like freeze resistance and transferring the genes that deal exclusively with that characteristic into cultivated grapes.

Wenping Qiu is an assistant research professor at the S-M-S Mountain Grove Campus.

Also helping organize the conference is Laszlo Kovacs, an associate research professor at the S-M-S Mountain Grove Campus.

He says grape genomics will allow scientists to pick and choose characteristics from different grapes and combine them into a grape that is heartier and requires less pesticide but also tastes good.

And for consumers who have concerns about genetically-modified foods, Wenping Qiu says grape genomics is about making a better grape without fundamentally changing the fruit.

He says it's about drawing on the strengths of wild grapes and incorporating those genes into cultivated grapes.

Just like conventional breeding but with a twist.

Laszlo Kovacs explains.

Kovacs says the science that's being discussed this week at the Grape Genomics Symposium could have broader implications for many of the plants we use for food.