Could African crops be improved with private biotech data?

The following is an edited excerpt. 

About four years ago, plant scientist Howard Yana-Shapiro learned about stunting, a result of malnutrition and undernutrition that affects 1 in 4 children worldwide. Shapiro decided to make it his mission to use plant science to end stunting because, he says, the international community currently relies too much on food donations, or crops like corn with few nutrients. “We need nutrition security, not food security,” he says. “A lot of the calories out there right now simply aren’t that useful.”

In 2011, Shapiro, and Mars — yes, the candy company — launched the African Orphan Crop Consortium, a project to improve the nutrition, productivity and climatic adaptability of little-known African food crops by mapping and analyzing their genomes. The 100 crops that are the focus of the AOCC include African eggplant, cocoyam and Ethiopian mustard. Shapiro says they have been neglected by researchers because they are not economically important on the global market.

Now, the Beijing Genomic Institute is helping the consortium to sequence these crops’ genomes. The hope is that as the genome sequences start to become public next year, African scientists can breed more nutritious and productive varieties of the crops.

Read the original story in its entirety here: Could African Crops Be Improved With Private Biotech Data?

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