A DEADLY poison could save the lives of millions of African children, thanks to the discovery that cassava can be duped into turning about half of the cyanide it makes into extra protein.
Although cassava is a major source of carbohydrates for 700 million people, mostly in Africa, it normally contains only small amounts of protein. Claude Fauquet of the Danforth Plant Science Center in St Louis, Missouri, and his team bumped up the protein content to 12.5 per cent by adding bean and maize genes to make a protein called zeolin. They were surprised to find that the plant used its natural supply of cyanide to provide the building blocks of the new protein. "Cyanide is a source of nitrogen within the plant," explains Fauquet.
While non-modified cassava supplies just one-fifth of daily protein requirements, the extra protein is enough to supply the needs of infants on a typical cassava-based diet (PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016256). Fauquet says his root could save 1 in 4 African children from a potentially fatal condition called protein-energy malnutrition.
However, it will be some years before it is rolled out
we didn't eat a lot of cassava in my area of Zimababwe but it is a staple food in Malawi and other areas of the continent