Big Boost to African Cassava Project

Philanthropic organizations devote millions to a research project aiming to develop genetically modified, virus-resistant versions of a Sub-Saharan staple crop.

By | September 7, 2011

The edible roots of the cassava plantWIKIMEDIA, DAVID MONNIAUX

Researchers working to create a virus-resistant variety of cassava, the starchy root vegetable that millions of people throughout the world depend on as a dietary staple, got a shot in the arm this week—to the tune of almost $12 million. The cash infusion is bound for the Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa (VIRCA) project and is coming from a trio of philanthropic organizations: about $5.5 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; another $5.5 million from The Monsanto Fund; and a little more than $850,000 from the Howard Buffett Foundation. VIRCA, which is also funded by about $2.5 in US taxpayer money, aims to develop two new varieties of cassava resistant to the viruses that cause cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) and cassava mosaic disease (CMD), two ailments that are decimating whole cultivars of the vegetable in places like Uganda and Kenya.

"I have witnessed the devastation caused by CMD and CBSD, wiping out entire harvests, leaving many people on the verge of starvation," Claude Fauquet, lead researcher on the VIRCA project and director of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center's International Laboratory for Tropical Agricultural Biotechnology, said in a statement. "Our team is confident that the cassava we develop will improve the lives of millions of people allowing them to not only grow adequate food, but also to increase productivity so they might have enough money left over to educate their children and afford good medical care for  malaria and other diseases they face.”

The $12 million funding boost will go towards phase II of the project, which uses siRNA and other tools to integrate virus resistance genes into the genomes of cassava varieties preferred by farmers in the region.

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Comments

Avatar of: Mabrouk A. El-Sharkawy

Anonymous

September 8, 2011

As a former cassava researcher at the Centro Internacional de Agricultura (CIAT), Cali-Palmira, Colombia,South America,  I felt somehow elated by the news of the multiple grants from various donors for assisting cassava researchers in their efforts to combat devastating diseases. I am sure that  this generous funding will lead shortly to developing the aspired-for improved cassava cultivars  " TOLERANT"  to the mentioned viruses. I personally  prefer the use of the term " tolerant"  rather than "resistant", as we scientists know that it is highly unlikely to develop " a 100% level of resistance"  to disease complex such as the one addressed here!.
 Mabrouk A. Elsharkawy, retired senior research scientist, CIAT, Colombia. 

Avatar of: Wayne Blakeley

Anonymous

September 8, 2011

I see that the researchers have found another way to make money and SUCK it out of good peoples pockets!
There are simple way to remove these types of problems out of the soil and water naturally, but nobody would ever listen to what really works. Researcher do not want to fix problems they want jobs that last for years and never fix the problem.
Natural probiotics can balance and kill most fungus and viruses in the soil along with 99.993% of all pathogenes out of the soil. I have worked on this problem for 12 years and found no person that is interested because they would loose their job in implimenting these kinds of fixes that are very easy and cheap.
Bottom line there is no money in it and it makes me sick to my stomach.
Wayne Blakeley
Living Streams Mission
Idaho

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 8, 2011

As a former cassava researcher at the Centro Internacional de Agricultura (CIAT), Cali-Palmira, Colombia,South America,  I felt somehow elated by the news of the multiple grants from various donors for assisting cassava researchers in their efforts to combat devastating diseases. I am sure that  this generous funding will lead shortly to developing the aspired-for improved cassava cultivars  " TOLERANT"  to the mentioned viruses. I personally  prefer the use of the term " tolerant"  rather than "resistant", as we scientists know that it is highly unlikely to develop " a 100% level of resistance"  to disease complex such as the one addressed here!.
 Mabrouk A. Elsharkawy, retired senior research scientist, CIAT, Colombia. 

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 8, 2011

I see that the researchers have found another way to make money and SUCK it out of good peoples pockets!
There are simple way to remove these types of problems out of the soil and water naturally, but nobody would ever listen to what really works. Researcher do not want to fix problems they want jobs that last for years and never fix the problem.
Natural probiotics can balance and kill most fungus and viruses in the soil along with 99.993% of all pathogenes out of the soil. I have worked on this problem for 12 years and found no person that is interested because they would loose their job in implimenting these kinds of fixes that are very easy and cheap.
Bottom line there is no money in it and it makes me sick to my stomach.
Wayne Blakeley
Living Streams Mission
Idaho

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 8, 2011

As a former cassava researcher at the Centro Internacional de Agricultura (CIAT), Cali-Palmira, Colombia,South America,  I felt somehow elated by the news of the multiple grants from various donors for assisting cassava researchers in their efforts to combat devastating diseases. I am sure that  this generous funding will lead shortly to developing the aspired-for improved cassava cultivars  " TOLERANT"  to the mentioned viruses. I personally  prefer the use of the term " tolerant"  rather than "resistant", as we scientists know that it is highly unlikely to develop " a 100% level of resistance"  to disease complex such as the one addressed here!.
 Mabrouk A. Elsharkawy, retired senior research scientist, CIAT, Colombia. 

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 8, 2011

I see that the researchers have found another way to make money and SUCK it out of good peoples pockets!
There are simple way to remove these types of problems out of the soil and water naturally, but nobody would ever listen to what really works. Researcher do not want to fix problems they want jobs that last for years and never fix the problem.
Natural probiotics can balance and kill most fungus and viruses in the soil along with 99.993% of all pathogenes out of the soil. I have worked on this problem for 12 years and found no person that is interested because they would loose their job in implimenting these kinds of fixes that are very easy and cheap.
Bottom line there is no money in it and it makes me sick to my stomach.
Wayne Blakeley
Living Streams Mission
Idaho

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