GMOs and nutrition: Disease-resistant, biofortified cassava could boost Africa’s access to essential minerals

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Credit: IITA
Credit: IITA

For the first time, an international team of scientists… have developed cassava displaying high-level resistance to cassava mosaic disease (CMD), cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) as well as higher levels of iron and zinc. This is the first time that disease resistance and multiple biofortification traits have been stacked in this manner in a non-cereal crop. 

It is important to confirm that the higher mineral levels are retained during food processing and cooking so that better nutrition can actually reach the dinner plate and the digestive tract. The research team under the direction of Okwuonu, prepared gari and fufu. These two common West African foods required a four-day process involving chopping, soaking, fermenting, pressing and roasting of the cassava root. They found that high levels of iron and zinc were retained through cooking and remained available for absorption in the gut following digestion.

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Ultimately, the biofortified cassava could benefit health in cassava consuming populations by providing 40-50 percent of Estimated Average Requirements (EAR) for iron and 60-70 percent of EAR for zinc for children and women in West Africa.

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