CRISPR could yield cyanide-free cassava, helping protect health of a billion people

Gmo cassava tubers
Credit: Lominda Afedraru

“Roughly a billion people around the world rely on cassava as a source of calories, including around 40 percent of Africans ….” says Jessica Lyons, principal investigator of this cassava genome editing project at IGI.

Cassava is important, but it also comes with a built-in problem …. Cassava roots naturally produce the precursor of cyanide. Over time, consuming cyanide can have effects that range from subtle cognitive problems to konzo, a severe disease characterized by sudden and irreversible paralysis of the legs.

Proper processing can remove cyanide from cassava, but many people are eating insufficiently processed cassava. This is a problem particularly in parts of sub-Saharan Africa that have experienced drought, famine, and instability. The effects of the toxicity are worse in places where people don’t have easy access to protein in their diets, which helps detoxify cyanide and mitigates its effects.

Related article:  CRISPR gene editing could save pigs from devastating disease
Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.

To make cyanide-free cassava a reality, Lyons, [Michael Gomez, a postdoc in the Staskawicz Lab at IGI] and the team of researchers are using CRISPR genome editing to block the production of cyanide.

“We first applied CRISPR to engineer resistance to a problematic disease in East and Central Africa called cassava brown streak disease, in collaboration with the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri,” says Gomez. “We used CRISPR to target two specific genes, and showed a reduction in severity and incidence of symptoms.”

Read the original post

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
can you boost your immune system to prevent coronavirus spread x

Video: How to boost your immune system to guard against COVID and other illnesses

Scientists have recently developed ways to measure your immune age. Fortunately, it turns out your immune age can go down ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend