Oh, dear! GMO cassava can potentially feed millions on the African continent? Heaven forfend!
If you grew up outside the African and South American continents you can be forgiven for thinking cassava is the latest variation of salsa music or perhaps the funky new energy beverage trendy hipsters are drinking these days. In Africa, however, 500 million individuals recognize cassava as a dietary staple much like the rest of the world enjoys potatoes and rice.
Native to South America, cassava was introduced to Africa by Portuguese colonists. Many cassava species exist in South America, however, that cannot be exported to Africa due to cassava mosaic disease, a virus exclusive to Africa. Eighty percent of the African cassava crop perished from mosaic disease in the 1920s, resulting in widespread famine. Other threats to the cassava include such pests as the cassava mealy bug and the cassava green mite.
Addressing this Third-World problem requires some agricultural-science expertise, which most certainly will chagrin the scientifically challenged, anti-genetically modified organism crowd. Because, you know, frankenfoods and such. Readers will remember Green America, among the most outspoken group of GMO detractors. Green America boasts Ceres and US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing affiliations. In turn, these affiliates trumpet their relationships with religious shareholder activists As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.
Green America’s outspokenness on GMOs includes reposting a Sept. 2014 article by Debbie Barker, International Programs Director, Center for Food Safety, in which she cavils:
Similarly, the biotech industry touted that cassava, one of the most important starch crops in Africa, was enriched with greatly increased protein content using genetic engineering. However, the research article claiming the elevated protein was later retracted when it was found that the purported increased protein did not exist.
While Barker’s assertion may contain some verity, it’s also quite shortsighted. After all, while the initial protein content of GM cassava may fall short of desired results, it’s also important to ensure the cassava plant depended upon by millions for nourishment is resistant to viruses and pests. Methinks Ms. Barker doth protest too much. You gotta walk before you can run, and recent developments reveal GM cassava is picking up a head of steam. (more…)