Last month, scientists announced a big breakthrough in barley research: They had finally sequenced the entire barley genome. In response, some media outlets ran stories declaring that this will somehow result in better beer (barley being one of beer's key ingredients). Sure, on some level, understanding the barley genome is going to yield better--or more, or cheaper--beer, especially if climate change goes down the way scientists suspect it will and crops become more difficult to grow due to substandard environmental conditions. But those media stories are missing the point: That kind of better-beer hyperbole is a bit like taking some NASA results from the Solar Dynamics Observatory and saying that the data will help you get a better tan. The implications of the research are much more complex.
Some background: Barley is a member of the tribe Triticeae along with other domesticated grains such as wheat and rye. These crops are among the earliest domesticated agricultural grain products--archeological evidence indicates that humans domesticated barley around 10,000 years ago.