COLUMBUS, Ohio Scientists have determined how to fortify the cassava plant, a staple root crop in many developing countries, with enough vitamins, minerals and protein to provide the poor and malnourished with a day's worth of nutrition in a single meal.
The researchers have further engineered the cassava plant so it can resist the crop's most damaging viral threats and are refining methods to reduce cyanogens, substances that yield poisonous cyanide if they are not properly removed from the food before consumption. The reduction of cyanogens also can shorten the time it takes to process the plant into food, which typically requires three to six days to complete.
Studies also are under way to extend the plant's shelf life so it can be stored or shipped.
The international team of scientists hopes to translate the greenhouse research into a product that can be field tested in at least two African nations by 2010. Funded by more than $12.1 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the group of researchers is led by Richard Sayre, a professor of plant cellular and molecular biology at Ohio State University.
Sayre presented an update on the BioCassava Plus project June 30 at the American Society of Plant Biologists meeting in Mrida, Mexico.
"This is the most ambitious plant genetic engineering project ever attempted," Sayre said. "Some biofortification strategies have the objective of providing only a third of the daily adult nutrition requirements since consumers typically get the rest of their nutritional requirements from other foods in their diet. But global food prices have recently gone sky high, meaning that many of the poorest people are now eating just one meal a day, primarily their staple food.
"So what we're working on has become even more important in the last year than it was when we started, not just in regions where people are malnourished, but across developing countries whe
|Contact: Richard Sayre|
Ohio State University