The potato was introduced relatively late to European diets, but it was embraced with enthusiasm. It is now the fourth largest staple crop on the planet after rice, wheat and maize. And from the Irish potato famine, to the row about "Freedom Fries" during the build- up to the Iraq war, they have been entwined with our history. And now a new chapter in the life of the plant might have begun with the news that scientists have deciphered the full genetic code of the potato. Advances in crop technology have enabled mankind to avoid the Malthusian nightmare of too many hungry mouths and not enough food in the past. Here's hoping that the potato is about to help us do so yet again.