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Using Gene Editing to Improve a Staple Food Crop

In an article on this website, details and links to information about using gene editing as a technique to improve crop plants used for food has been discussed. Click here for a video presented by the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) and CropLife International that briefly describes how this technology can be used to improve cassava, which is a major staple food crop in the developing world.

Cassava is extensively cultivated as a crop in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Its edible, starchy tuberous root is a major source of carbohydrates where consumed. In fact, it is the third largest source of food carbohydrates behind rice and maize in the tropics. It is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, and is capable of growing on marginal soils where many other crops do not grow or produce well. It is an especially important food crop in the humid and sub-humid areas of tropical Africa.

Food products derived from the cassava root must be properly prepared before consumption to remove residual cyanide that can cause irreversible neurological disorders in humans. As shown in the linked video, gene editing technology is being used to remove the cyanide content from the cassava plant. This transformation of this food plant will be a tremendous benefit to those people who depend on it as a major food source.

This is another example that shows how advances in technology can be used to improve the human condition on this planet. Without these advancements and their allowed safe use in the improvement of human food sources, there is a lower potential of providing the needed quantity and quality of food for the world’s population.

Composed by Larry G. Heatherly, July 2020, larryheatherly@bellsouth.net