Image: Ramadhan Abdulla holds cassava on his farm in Tanzania. © Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Jake Lyell
The BioCassava Plus Program: Biofortification of Cassava for Sub-Saharan Africa
Annual Review of Plant Biology Vol. 62: 251-272
More than 250 million Africans rely on the starchy root crop cassava (Manihot esculenta) as their staple source of calories. A typical cassava-based diet, however, provides less than 30% of the minimum daily requirement for protein and only 10%–20% of that for iron, zinc, and vitamin A.
The BioCassava Plus (BC+) program has employed modern biotechnologies intended to improve the health of Africans through the development and delivery of genetically engineered cassava with increased nutrient (zinc, iron, protein, and vitamin A) levels. Additional traits addressed by BioCassava Plus include increased shelf life, reductions in toxic cyanogenic glycosides [cyanide] to safe levels, and resistance to viral disease.
The program also provides incentives for the adoption of biofortified cassava. Proof of concept was achieved for each of the target traits. Results from field trials in Puerto Rico, the first confined field trials in Nigeria to use genetically engineered organisms, and ex ante impact analyses support the efficacy of using transgenic strategies for the biofortification of cassava.