Could GMO cassva prevent ‘konzo’ disease caused by cyanide in staple crop?

[K]onzo [is] a neurotoxic disease that people succumb to when they have nothing to eat except for the white roots of cassava… The plant’s tissue can become rich in the poison cyanide when grown in soil [during droughts]…

. . . .

As part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Bio Cassava Plus program, researchers have engineered cassava plants with inactivated cyanide genes. However, cyanide might provide some advantage to the plant that won’t be known until they’re tested for several years in konzo-affected places…

…[Roslyn Gleadow, an Australian plant researcher] worries that the lack of cyanide will make them easy targets for insects that prey on drought-weakened plants. This could be why the plants make the toxin in the first place. “You don’t want to create a situation where suddenly people need to spray pesticides on their crops,” she says…

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Still, Gleadow thinks molecular biology has much to offer. In March, she and her colleagues published the cassava genome in Nature Biotechnology (2016)Now, researchers will be able to detect which genes control the toxicity of cassava, and which make them resilient to drought. … Without genetic markers, traditional cassava breeding takes several years.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Bitter Harvest: Cassava and Konzo, the Crippling Disease, Part III

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