However, if the main reason the plant has evolved was actually to produce high levels of caffeine as a natural pesticide for increased pest control, then the knock-on effect could well be a weaker, unhealthy plant. This would not be a viable farming option. Yet in comparing the coffee genome against other species, the scientists actually found a sizeable enrichment in disease-resistant genes. So obviously there is still a lot of research to be done, but the potential from the disease-resistant genes data could be to actually increase resilience to pests, plus future climate change issues, through modification.
Some of the scientists have now moved on to the Arabica plant, a hybrid of the easier to grow robusta and another plant. As a hybrid from two plant varieties the Arabica has a duplicated genome offering double the genetic information to work on. While a more complex operation, the resulting data could complement the work done with the Robusta plant and further increase the chances of commercial genetically modified coffee.
Ultimately for the consumer it will still come down to taste. Regardless of the scientific advances, and whether most consumers accept the notion of genetically modified foods, the coffee will still have to taste great after any tinkering. If this passes the test, and the new crops can show themselves to be at least as pest resistant, if not more, then perhaps the chance of genetically modified coffee being stocked on the shelves of our local stores will be more realistic.