Crop Biotech Update

Cassava Virus Spreading in East Africa

November 18, 2011

Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) is on the verge of becoming an epidemic in East Africa. Experts of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) say that the disease has been found in previously unaffected areas particularly where cassava is a major food crop. People in Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda depend on the crop for food.

"None of the cassava varieties currently being distributed to farmers seem to be tolerant to the effects of CBSD. We urgently need to get information on the extent and severity of the outbreak, and to support investments to identify disease-tolerant varieties and coping strategies for farmers," said Jan Helsen, leader of FAO's European Union-funded Regional Cassava Initiative in Eastern and Central Africa.

Helsen says National Cassava Steering Committees have been set up to manage the response to the disease."Thanks to the foresight of, and the scientific support from, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), efforts are underway to understand the epidemiology of the disease, but more support will be needed for this work, and to select and bring on CBSD-tolerant varieties," Helsen added.

The FAO media release is at http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/94313/icode/.