Coffee Beans May Become Insecticides

CAMPINAS, Brazil, April 1 (UPI) — Brazilian scientists say they’ve found unroasted coffee beans contain proteins that can kill insects — a finding that may lead to new food crop insecticides.

University of Campinas Professor Paulo Mazzafera said peas, beans and other plant seeds contain proteins called globulins, which ward off insects and coffee beans contain large amounts of globulins.

Although the high heat involved in roasting coffee beans destroys the globulins, Mazzafera said he and his team wondered whether the coffee proteins might also have an insecticidal effect.

Their tests against cowpea weevil larva — insects used as models for studying the insecticidal activity of proteins — showed tiny amounts of the coffee proteins quickly killed up to half of the insects.

In the future, the researchers said scientists could insert genes for the insect-killing proteins into important food crops, such as grains, so that the plants produce their own insecticides.

The research is reported in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

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