A scientist working for the Queensland Department of Primary Industries Agency for Food and Fibre Sciences has developed a new strain of peanut through cross-pollination, a creation that many believe will revolutionise the snack food industry.

Funded by the federal government's Grains Research and Development Corporation, Kingaroy plant breeder Alan Cruikshank created the "high oleic" peanut. The content of the beneficial, mono-unsaturated oleic acid, which is attributed with combating high blood cholesterol, has increased from the normal peanut level of 45-55% to an 80% level more akin to the top olive oils.

In another similarity to olive oil, the saturated fatty acid content of the high oleic peanut had reduced to 15.4% from the normal level of 18.4%. Olive oil boasts 14%.

The health benefits of the peanuts will allow manufacturers who use them to market them as a functional food.

Another advantage of the high oleic content is a shelf life increased tenfold. Manufacturers will no longer have to use nitrogen to maintain the freshness of nuts, and nut products intended for export will see fewer losses.

Industry experts told The Australian that they expect the high oleic peanut to be the leading variety grown in Australia by 2005. Furthermore, it is expected to have replaced nearly all other types of peanut by 2010.