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Neglected Crop

April 12, 2006

Over the twentieth century, the productivity of corn increased more than a thousand times. That’s thanks to science. But other crops have been left behind, along with the people who rely on them.


BOB HIRSHON (host):The neglected crop. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Cassava, also known as manioc, feeds some 700 million people in the poorest countries. But it’s susceptible to viruses, insects, and drought. This according to plant biologist Claude Fauquet of the Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center.

CLAUDE FAUQUET (Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center):
If the plant itself is not capable to produce enough calories per unit of space and family, then these people cannot get out of poverty.

He’s part of an international coalition of scientists working to at least double the productivity of cassava. They hope to do this by genetically modifying the plant for plague-resistance and to express healthy vitamins and proteins. But they caution that current investment in cassava research is only one percent of what is needed. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.