Scientist's odourless durian fruit kicks up stink in Asia

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The durian fruit, widely considered to be the world's smelliest, may soon lose its distinctive odour.

The Thai government is set to announce that one of its leading horticultural scientists has cracked the challenge of producing a durian that does not pong.

Durians are banned from many hotels and airlines in south-east Asia, where they are widely grown.

Thailand is the world's leading durian producer, growing nearly 800,000 tonnes a year, worth £45m, and it fell to Dr Songpol Somsri to seek to expand the durian's appeal by cross-breeding up to 90 varieties until he had excised its most pungent whiffs.

Dr Somsri confirmed this week that after 30 years of studying the fruit he has produced a hybrid with a perfume no more offensive than that of a banana.

It is hoped the varietal, named Chantaburi Number One after his home province near the Cambodian border, will increase the attractiveness of durians to European customers and those Thais who object to their stink. Dr Somsri told The New York Times: "Most Thais don't like too strong a smell, except some old people."

The 52-year-old researcher is attempting to take his work further by mapping the DNA of the fruit, which grows up to 40cm in length and is covered in sharp spikes. He hopes one day to breed a version without the thorns.

But while those with more delicate nostrils may be grateful to Dr Somsri, durian traditionalists are unlikely to be impressed.

Chang Peik Seng, who grows durians in Malaysia, which along with Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines is the major market for the fruit, said: "The smell must come out from the durian ... If the durian doesn't have a strong smell the customer only pays one-third the price."